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Johnson appointed to new Distinguished Professorship in Clinical Education

Man in lab coat standing in front of framed degrees
Dr. David Johnson

Dr. David Johnson, who led the Department of Internal Medicine for nearly a decade, has been appointed the first holder of the R. Ellwood Jones, M.D. Distinguished Professorship in Clinical Education.

The position is named after Dr. Johnson’s personal friend and fellow physician, Dr. Jones. The two physicians said they frequently talk about medicine and their readings in military history.

“To have Dr. Johnson hold this endowment is a great honor for me,” Dr. Jones said. “He is not only a brilliant clinician but also an extremely well-read person. Discussing medicine or history with him is enjoyable and refreshing. I am delighted he has this Professorship.”

Earlier this month, Dr. Johnson stepped down as Chair of Internal Medicine, a position he had held since 2010. His successor, Dr. Thomas Wang, came from Vanderbilt University – just as Dr. Johnson did. During his tenure as Chair, Dr. Johnson hired new talent, producing a net gain of 150 new faculty members in Internal Medicine, and he played a role in opening the new 460-bed William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital. For his work, he was honored with a Giant of Cancer Care award at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago in May.

In his continuing role as Professor of Internal Medicine, the Distinguished Professorship will help support Dr. Johnson’s work as Master of Estabrook College, one of the Medical School’s six Colleges that foster community and collaboration among students. As Master, Dr. Johnson oversees mentors who advise students from their academic work to their careers as doctors.

“It’s a way of making a larger class of students seem smaller by bringing them together as a family to share in their educational experiences,” Dr. Johnson said, adding that he intends to continue making rounds with medical students, sometimes with Dr. Jones.

With the freedom the Professorship gives him, Dr. Johnson would also like to explore ways to form interdisciplinary teams of doctors who consult on rare, difficult cases that current medical science cannot treat and sometimes cannot even diagnose. He envisions this “discovery consult service” to work like a tumor board in which physicians of varying expertise huddle together to tackle the complexities of cancer patients’ medical problems.

“We have tools today to probe the patient’s situation much more deeply than we did in the past,” said Dr. Johnson, who began his career as a lung cancer specialist.

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