Emily Johnson, Class of 2022

Each story is unique, intimate, and powerful. Readers, please come open-minded and ready to engage with the following stories. More importantly, be ready to interface with an intimate space and allow yourself to step inside someone else’s life. The following is the narrative of Emily Johnson, a second-year medical student at KUMC.

Can you share a one-minute summary of your life?  

I grew up in Overland Park and went to Kansas State University. Go cats! I started out wanting to be a landscape architect, and K-State has a great architecture program. I realized I’m not as good at drawing as I thought and I’d rather not stay up all night hand-rendering designs. So I ended up on the ecology side of things. I love plants and nature, and somehow I ended up in an anatomy class.

I graduated knowing [I was interested in] something medical, but I didn’t know what. So then I got a job from a friend who worked as a medical assistant. He was going to med school and he needed someone to take his place. And I wanted a job as soon as I graduated. So I got married, started working, and saw what the doctors were doing and just loved it. The fact that every single day your job is to chat with a bunch of people and try to add in ways to make their health/life a little better – I was like, I want to do this. And that’s kind of my journey into medicine. I’m the kind of person that loves making friends with strangers on an airplane, and never shy away from a conversation. People are so interesting. A career that encompasses this on a daily basis ultimately sounds like an exciting way to go through life.

So, I’m married. I have two cats, and I’m loving school. My husband’s an architect. I got a husband out of architecture school. Worked well for me. We love to rock climb, garden, camp – basically anything involving nature and playing in the dirt.

If you could use one word to describe yourself, what would it be and why?

I would probably say bubbly or enthusiastic, just because I kind of tend to be loud. I mean, that’s I think what people see first. I love life. My biggest fear would be dying early. Dying early and missing all sorts of opportunities to learn and do. There’s so much I want to milk out of life.

What do you do in your free time?

I’ve really gotten into this gardening thing over the past couple years. I’m on the grandma trajectory. I love watching my plants grow, and I get really proud of them when they start to get big and bloom.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about mental health. I’ve struggled with anxiety since I was a little kid. Like I would puke whenever I was in an unfamiliar place or ate red candy/KoolAid at sleepovers. Looking back, it was just another manifestation of my anxiety; now it obviously affects me in a different way. I’ve always been open with friends/family about my experience seeing counselors and working with my anxiety. We act like mental health issues are something we should be able to handle on our own, but our minds are powerful machines that sometimes need an objective outsider or medication or counseling to bring us back to ground. I think the more open we can be about our own struggles with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, etc, the less power we give to the condition. People need to know it’s OKAY to have and can certainly be worked through! 

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I drive a truck.  I’ve always wanted a truck and I finally got one after I graduated. And it’s such a power trip because I’m a little person and I feel really big and important and scary in the truck.

What inspires you?

I really look up to my dad. He’s a workhorse. I really admire the way he’s been a loving man of the family, achieved at work, and still balanced his life with us, something that I definitely hope I’m able to do in the future. Being a parent, working as hard as he does. He’s an incredible guy.

What are your future hopes in medicine?

I hope that our country gets its stuff figured out. I mean, there’s the fact that your zip code says more about health outcomes than anything else. That is so messed up. My hopes are that we would get access for everybody. And quality care too, because it’s really easy to get everybody enlisted in universal health care yada yada, but are we actually giving them all the time and care they need?

Another thing I hope for medicine, I wish that insurance would just back off. I mean, between insurance, Medicare, corporate, there’s checklist after checklist after documentation after nonsense. There’s no room for medicine. That’s something that does worry me about my future career. How much burnout am I going to get on all the nitpicky things that have no purpose other than corporate financial gain? My hope is that we can return to a focus on patient-provider relationship.

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