Dr. Pamela Johnson is an accomplished surgeon with a passion to help things live and flourish where they are. She has pursed that passion in multiple facets of her life both as a mother and an avid gardener. However, it is her specialization in breast care where she has spent the past 30 years impacting the lives of her patients, including both women and men battling with breast cancer.
The Road to Medicine
Dr. Johnson explains that she always felt a strong calling to go into medicine. “I might have considered a career as an astronaut when I was young, but it was really always medicine for me,” she admitted. “I was drawn to medicine because I would have an opportunity to perform an operation or a procedure that could immediately correct a problem for a patient.” This passion quickly translated to the desire to pursue surgery while still in medical school. “Within 5-6 hours of my first surgical rotation in my third year of school, I knew this is what I wanted to do,” Dr. Johnson said. “It really suited me. I appreciated the honesty and accountability of surgeons and the criticism they offered was always fair,” she remarked. “What we do can immediately impact the patient. I enjoy the possibility of that.”
Specializing in Breast Care
Specializing in surgical breast procedures was a choice that made sense on multiple levels for Dr. Johnson. “I’m a mom and part of my decision to begin specializing came from my dedication to my family,” she said. “Getting called into the ER doesn’t work so well if you have four children at home. My practice became dedicated solely to women and men with breast cases.” Specializing in these cases established Dr. Johnson as one of the leading surgeons for breast care in the area. This can include diagnoses and treatment of breast cancer, but also extends to the full range of diseases of the breast. Minimally invasive procedures, abnormalities in breast tissue, discharge and other breast disorders are all a part of her range of care.
Dr. Johnson also explains that the technology and specializations in breast care have grown tremendously over the years as she has grown her practice. “What we are able to do today compared to 30 years ago is astounding,” she said. “Years ago a condition may have required a total breast removal, called a mastectomy, while today it might be treatable with a minimally invasive procedure and radiation.” She adds that one of the benefits of “growing up” with the development of the technology and knowledge of breast care is her exposure to the various procedures available. “I can realistically say that in the past 30 years, we have seen just about everything. It’s really been a privilege to work in this time.”
The Power of a Medical Team
Advances in technology have not just affected procedures available to surgeons, Dr. Johnson says, but the technology powering radiology and imaging procedures. “Radiology and surgery work really well together,” Dr. Johnson explained. “The imagers and technology used in imaging has changed so much over the years. We’ve advanced to digital and now 3D mammograms and breast ultrasound where we can pinpoint cancer in a breast. Using these improved methods of early imaging detection, we help patients avoid chemotherapy entirely, whereas a few years ago, these tiny lesions were not spotted on the older technology.”
In a typical day, Dr. Johnson explains that she is able to perform some procedures right in her own office, thanks to advanced technology. “Procedures like minimally invasive biopsies take me about 6-7 minutes to do now. Thirty years ago that might have meant an overnight stay in the hospital, but today I can accomplish the same task in my office without even needing to make an incision. I use a needle to perform the biopsy,” Dr. Johnson said.
While the technology and procedures are work she genuinely enjoys, the best part of her day is the people; both patients and co-workers. “The women I see are generous of heart, brave, honest, and considerate. These women, some of whom are battling cancer, are so moved by the kindness shown to them by neighbors or family. They are wonderful women, and it is moving to be a part of it.” Dr. Johnson speaks equally well of her office manager, surgical team, technicians, and the team of medical staff at Crittenton hospital. “I genuinely care for my team at Crittenton,” Dr. Johnson said. Part of that is because of their genuine care for patient outcomes. “I enjoy going to work everyday because I have the privilege of working with true professionals. We are all here because we want to do the best job we can for our patients.”
When she is not in the office or operating at the hospital, Dr. Johnson says she enjoys spending time with her other passion: gardening. She laughingly equates landscaping and gardening to raising children. “It comes back to my joy in making something live and flourish where it is. I love that about my work, and I enjoy it at my home as well.” She also enjoys the physical labor of gardening. “You don’t have to go to a gym to get in exercise. It can be gardening, or vacuuming, or maybe walking with your family.” She explains that one of the best pieces of advice for her community is to understand how one’s lifestyle can affect breast cancer risks. Weight management, she says, is an important part.
Dr. Pamela Johnson received her medical school training at Wayne State School of Medicine in Detroit, MI. She completed her residency in general surgery at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI as well.