Alum will practice medicine
When Joey Johnson graduated
from both Shorter University and Georgia Highlands College last year
with six degrees, the Cedartown native had planned to go into medicine
and eventually practice in a rural area close to home.
Perhaps it was by fate that Johnson was awarded an $80,000
scholarship, called the Georgia Board for Physician Workforce
Scholarship, with that exact criteria.
“This scholarship is competitive and pays for $20,000 a year of
medical school tuition,” Johnson explained. “For every year I accept it,
I am obligated to work one year in a rural area in Georgia as a
physician. This works well for me since I have always wanted to work in
Chattooga County, anyway.”
Johnson had graduated from the local colleges in three and a half
years with four associate’s degrees and two bachelor’s degrees. Having
discovered a photographic memory which allowed him to retain more
information, Johnson was determined for himself, his wife and his young
daughter, to be successful as he feared his family living in poverty.
Johnson has only been in medical school at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee for about a month, but like with his previous college experience, he’s making a splash.
“Out of a class of 200 plus, I was voted by my peers as medical
student of the month, and I was nominated to be class president,”
Johnson said. “We will see how that goes.”
From a young age, Johnson said his ambition was to be a doctor.
“I have pretty much decided on being a family practice physician,”
Johnson said. “I like this specialty because I can treat a person
holistically. I don’t just see them for one or two visits and try to
diminish their symptoms, I get to work with them in adjusting their
diets, making lifestyle changes, etc.”
Right now, Johnson is on track to become an osteopathic physician,
meaning he can treat patients as a medical doctor, but can also do
“osteopathic manipulative treatments.”
“This means, that if a person may be present with an upper
respiratory infection, I may write them a prescription for antibiotics,”
Johnson explained. “But, I may also adjust their ribs to accelerate the
healing process. Or, if a person presents with low back pain, I will
treat those symptoms, but I may also adjust their spine to ensure proper
As for returning to the Chattooga county area once he graduates,
Johnson said that has always been the goal since access to adequate
healthcare is more difficult to find in rural areas.
“If a person has an HMO or Health Maintenance Organization plan,
their primary care doctor may recommend them to see a neurologist,” he
said, which may force them to travel. “If we increase physicians in
rural areas though, we can slice into problems such as these.”
However, Johnson is already doing some work in rural areas, he said,
and plans to come back to Georgia to put on health care workshops for
“I will be back twice this year to hold free health workshops in the
Northwest Georgia area,” he said. “One workshop is a Hispanic workshop,
and the other workshop is currently planned to be in conjunction with
the Georgia Council for the Blind. These workshops will include free
seminars, dietary suggestions, physical exercise planning, and health
A slew of health care professionals and translators have already
signed on for the workshops, Johnson said, and he emphasized that within
certain demographics, individuals are more susceptible to certain
“I don’t mean to single out any particular group or demographic, but
there is a need for culturally-based and demographic-specific health
care,” he said. “For example, African-American males are at the greatest
risk for prostate cancer, and the African-American diet facilitates an
environment for high blood pressure. Hispanics are at great risk for
developing diabetes — especially Hispanic women.”
At the end of the day, Johnson said his main goal is to change lives in a tangible way.
“I want to really make a community-based difference,” Johnson said.
“I don’t want to change the world, just a few rural communities in
Northwest Georgia. John Wooden, the NCAA coach once said, ‘Never mistake
activity for achievement.’ I live by this.”