Harvard Public Health Review Winter 2007
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Best of the Best, 2007 Alumni Award of Merit Winners

Myron Allukian Jr., MPH67
Timothy Johnson, MPH '76 Medical Editor, ABC News

Johnson was working in emergency medicine in Lynn, Massachusetts, when he was tapped by a local television station to do a half-hour show called “Housecalls.”

Co-editor, Harvard Medical School Health Letter Book; co-author, Let’s Talk; Dr. Timothy Johnson’s On-Call Guide to Men’s Health; and Finding God in the Questions: A Personal Journey

Formerly on staff at the Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston

Originally headed for the ministry, he graduated in 1963 from North Park Seminary in Chicago, Illinois.

Dr. Tim on Call

Got a question about health, or a new medical discovery? Grab your webcam, cell cam, or camcorder, and send a question on videotape to “Dr. Tim” at www.abcnews.com. He just might answer on the air, on “ABC News Now.”

But don’t mistake Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) graduate Timothy Johnson, MPH ’76, for a mere reporter; ABC’s website describes him as “a medical communicator of health care information.” As medical editor for the ABC News program “Good Morning America,” he’s been answering viewers’ questions since 1975, on topics ranging from vitamins’ impact on the common cold, statin drugs for heart health, the new cervical cancer vaccine, and obesity’s link to birth defects, to health care reform. And given his additional appearances on “World News Tonight,” “Nightline,” and “20/20,” you can catch him almost nightly.

Interpreting Research
For HSPH students aspiring to roles in health education, Johnson has two words of advice: “biostatistics and epidemiology.”

“I’m forever grateful,” he says, for his training in these areas, which he calls “absolutely critical for interpreting research.” A graduate of Albany Medical College, Johnson says understanding disease risk in populations requires “a different kind of thinking” than does medical school, where the focus is on illness in individuals.

Among Johnson’s memories of HSPH, one faculty member stands out: the late Marge Drolette, professor of biostatistics. “She was a smoker,” he points out wryly. “But she was colorful, competent, and very effective.”

It was in the mid-1970s that Johnson enrolled part-time at HSPH. Then a fellow with Harvard Medical School’s Department of Continuing Education and a founding editor of the Harvard Medical School Health Letter, he had begun to work with the “Good Morning America” team. Hoping to hone his analytical skills, he says, he “found the answer to my need right next door.” Taking classes between stints on the air, he earned a master’s degree within two years.

Health Care ‘Critical’
Johnson’s commentary and in-depth reports have won several awards, including three Emmys—two from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and one from its Boston/New England chapter. Among his many career honors are a 1999 Gabriel Award for a two-part piece, “Alzheimer’s: A Faded Memory”; the 1998 Bradford Washburn Award from Boston’s Museum of Science (fellow recipients include Walter Cronkite, Jane Goodall, and Jacques Cousteau); and the 1988 Lewis Thomas Award from the American College of Physicians.

Johnson’s focused sharply on American clinical medicine and what he calls health care’s “critical condition.” He’s encouraged by the public’s growing concern for the uninsured—43 million and counting. Although global health falls outside his beat, he has borne witness to HIV’s spread throughout the world. “AIDS,” he says, “changed the landscape for everyone.”

Tune in to Johnson at your local ABC-TV affiliate. Or visit http://abcnews.go.com/health to view his archived broadcasts.

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Karin Kiewra is editor of the Review and Associate Director of Development Communications at HSPH.

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