Timothy R. B. Johnson, MD

Class Year




Posted on: October 11, 2022

Timothy R.B. Johnson, MD ’75 is a co-recipient of the University of Michigan’s 2022 President’s Award for Distinguished Service in International Education.

Johnson is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the University of Michigan Medical School, and professor of women’s and gender studies in Michigan’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

“Timothy Johnson has given our students life-changing international experiences while elevating Michigan’s role as a welcoming partner in global collaborations, particularly through his work in Ghana,” said President Mary Sue Coleman.

Following is an excerpt from Michigan’s The University Record:

Johnson’s commitment to and advocacy for international students ignited in 1986 when he traveled to Ghana as part of an initial group of Americans to reestablish relationships in medicine, specifically in obstetrics and gynecology.

“I had an opportunity to give a talk on safe motherhood, and it was a transformational moment for me,” Johnson said.

“The very first day I was (in Ghana), I went to morning report. The report said they had a busy night and 10 maternal deaths. These were women who died from bleeding since there was no blood bank. Women would have hemorrhages and high blood pressure that they couldn’t control. They had strokes and died. Those were all diseases we could control here.

“They needed people who could train OBGYN health workers to save women’s lives. So I said, ‘I know how to do that. My expertise is training medical students.’”

Thus began a steady, fruitful partnership with colleagues in Ghana that continues after 36 years.

During Johnson’s career at U-M, he has mentored hundreds of undergraduate students, medical students, residents and fellows — in the U.S. and Ghana. Most of his mentees continue his international legacy as faculty, effectively multiplying his impact on global health. More than 50 publications have documented Johnson’s unique program development, bidirectional pedagogical approach and ethical grounding.

For Dee Fenner, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Johnson’s conceptual framework of sustained academic partnership has made U-M a role model in Africa. “Dr. Johnson’s service to global health and his commitment to ideals of trust, sustainability, mutual respect, accountability and leadership laid the groundwork for Michigan’s international education programs,” Fenner said.