In 2010, after 30 years at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., a new opportunity presented itself to David Johnson, M.D. An internationally respected cancer physician, researcher, and medical educator, Dr. Johnson had joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 1983, serving as Director of the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology from 1993 until 2010 and as Deputy Director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center from 1998 through June 2010. By any standard, his career had been very successful, and he had made a difference in people’s lives.
I believe that every physician is influenced in some fashion by every patient. It is one of the magical elements of being a physician. You insert yourself into the lives of your patients, and you learn from each and every one of them.”
So, when Dr. Johnson was invited to leave Nashville and become the leader of a department with 15 divisions and hundreds of physicians, he knew right away the answer was “yes.” He is now Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
“I have wanted to be a physician as long ago as I can remember. It’s a rewarding profession on so many different levels, particularly in academic medicine, where one gets to engage in the care of patients, experience the excitement of educating new physicians, and feel the joy of discovery that comes with research at all levels,” says Dr. Johnson.
Dr. Johnson maintains a lifelong practice of reading at least an hour every evening. Among the books that have had an impact on him is one by Bob Buford, the cable TV pioneer, social entrepreneur, and venture philanthropist who co-founded the Leadership Network.
“The book talks about the difference between success and significance. Virtually every man and woman in an academic medical center is successful in one way or another. Yet, personal success doesn’t translate to significance or lasting value. I have yet to have a patient ask me about personal success. What a patient wants to know is that I am capable of helping deal with the problem that they have, not just the pathophysiology, but also the ripple effect of illness that goes far beyond the disease. I find it rewarding when I am able to do that.”