NJBIZ magazine cites Robert Johnson’s advocacy for adolescent health and his distinction in medical education

Robert Johnson, dean of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and interim dean of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, recently received the NJBIZ Health Care Heroes Lifetime Achievement Award.

The award recognizes professionals whose work demonstrates the highest level of dedication to improving the lives of New Jerseyans.

NJBIZ noted Johnson’s distinction as the dean of two medical schools, his work with adolescents and his role as a professor of pediatrics and founder and director of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

The magazine cited Johnson’s research on adolescent physical and mental health, adolescent HIV, adolescent violence, adolescent sexuality, health equity and family strengthening. He has treated adolescents with HIV infection since the onset of the HIV epidemic and treated adolescents with COVID-19 infection since the earliest days of the pandemic.

“It is important to highlight the career of someone who has focused on vulnerable people, especially now with COVID-19 menacing so many vulnerable communities. We believe Dr. Johnson is uniquely situated to address the legitimate concerns of these communities and to help lead the effort to improve health outcomes among them,” said Jeffrey Kanige, NJBIZ editor.

Johnson graduated from the College of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, as Rutgers New Jersey Medical School was known then, in 1972. He joined the faculty as an assistant professor of pediatrics in 1976, following his fellowship training in adolescent medicine. He was named dean in 2011, becoming the first alumnus to serve in that role. In 2019, he was also named interim dean of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

“As this award recognizes, Dean Johnson has dedicated his life to improving the health outcomes of adolescents and advancing medical education. A true trailblazer in medicine and academic health care, he has forged a remarkable career and a legacy that reaches beyond his work at the university. We are fortunate to have Dean Johnson on our leadership team at Rutgers,” said Brian Strom, chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.

Early in his career, Johnson recognized the need for adolescent care, a new specialty at the time. He was one of the founders of The Door, a free health clinic for young people in New York City, founded the Young Fathers Program at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and launched the first adolescent health program at Harrison S. Martland Medical Center, where he had completed his professional training as an intern and resident, and which was replaced by University Hospital.

Outside of Rutgers, Johnson has served in a variety of leadership roles, including as a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, vice chair of the Community Prevention Task Force of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and chairs of the New Jersey Governor’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, the Newark Ryan White Planning Council and the NIH Preventing Violence and Related Health-Risking Social Behaviors in Adolescents State of the Science Conference.

He previously served as president of the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners, chair of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Council on Graduate Medical Education, a member of the National Council of the National Institute of Mental Health, a member of the NIH AIDS Research Council and a member of the Institute of Medicine Health Care Services Board.