Alfred Johnson has earned a reputation for helping his patients feel better — inside and out.
Growing up with a physician as a father, Dr. Alfred Johnson witnessed firsthand the intense demand and commitment that accompanies life as a medical professional. But, he also saw how his father gently encouraged patients to change for the better and how he made a positive difference in their lives. Though his father cautioned him about entering medicine, Johnson says he couldn’t envision a different path. He was hooked from a young age.
“My father didn’t push me to pursue medicine, not because he thought I couldn’t do it, but because he understood that it is a busy lifestyle, and that once you choose it, you have to be truly dedicated to it,” Johnson says. “But it always circled right back to medicine for me. I felt drawn towards it. Even when I tried to do other stuff, I had more happiness when I was involved in some form of health care. I feel like it’s my calling.”
After graduating from high school in his hometown of St. Louis, Johnson chose to attend Xavier University because of the school’s proven record of preparing students for medical school. He left college with his now-wife Ebony by his side, along with an acceptance to medical school at the MU School of Medicine and close proximity to Ebony’s family in Jefferson City.
Today, Johnson, who is trained in both pediatrics and internal medicine, splits his time at JCMG. He says he is fortunate that JCMG allows him to share his time between two departments and two populations that he loves, children and adults.
“It allows me to be the glorified family physician,” Johnson says. “I can see my patients who really want an internist, and I can also see the patients who really want a pediatrician.”
As a physician, Johnson says his goal is to treat everyone like a family member or close friend while interacting with them in a way that provokes change.
It all comes down to what the patient will remember when they leave the room, because that will dictate how they manage their condition until the next time we see each other.
“I believe people respond to me because I speak to them, not to the disease or ailment,” Johnson says. “I like to have a therapeutic conversation, and it’s always good to have fun and have humor. It all comes down to what the patient will remember when they leave the room, because that will dictate how they manage their condition until the next time we see each other.”
Over the past eight years at JCMG, Johnson says he’s learned that Jefferson City’s small-town mentality is effective at cultivating motivation and positive change. For example, Johnson says when people hear that a neighbor or a friend of a friend had a heart attack, people often evaluate the choices they’re making in their own lives.
“When you live in a smaller community and you hear news and have some kind of connection to that person, that goes a long way in pushing you to do better,” Johnson says. “Hearing that information allows you to reflect on what you need to do. ‘Do I have a doctor? Have I seen a doctor? Do I need to see a doctor? Am I healthy? Am I doing what is right?’ Often, I have people who come in to be seen after being motivated by someone else.”
In his daily practice, Johnson says he emphasizes listening to your body, along with the basics of a healthy lifestyle: eating healthy and staying active. He advocates for what he’s coined “commercial exercising.”
“A commercial is break time,” Johnson says. “Commercial exercising is looking at breaks in my day and filling it with exercise. When I’m doing notes at the end of the day, I’m cycling under the table, keeping my body going because every movement adds to a benefit for me. I’m walking, moving my legs back and forth, or standing instead of sitting. Moving my arms in circles. Looking at dead time and making sure I’m not being swallowed up by using the phone.”
Johnson says that being named one of CITY’s Best is a huge honor for him, one that he does not take for granted.
“Medicine is what I do, it’s what I choose. One of my weaknesses is that I can run behind, but it’s never on purpose,” Johnson says. “When I’m in that room, I’m hoping the patient knows that I have their undivided attention, that when they’re with me they feel like I’m truly involved in what’s happening. I like knowing that there was something I said or did to provoke a smile or make them feel good. I’m going to be serious, but I’m going to be that warm hand that helps someone know it’s going to be OK, we’re going to get through this.”
At the end of the day, when his paperwork is complete, Johnson turns his attention to his other important work: parenting his four children, aged 14, 12, 10, and 8, and being the best husband he can to Ebony, who works as a physical therapist at Special Learning Center.
“Once I get home, I’m dad, I’m husband,” Johnson says. “I wouldn’t be able to do any of this if it weren’t for my supportive wife, kids, and extended family. I have an amazing wife who keeps me in line, and where I’m at is mainly from her.”
In addition to his roles as a physician, husband and father, Johnson also serves on the board of directors for the MU Medical School Foundation, as a member of United Way of Central Missouri’s governing body, and with his church, Victory Christian Church in Columbia. He also finds time to indulge in his favorite pastime: shoe shopping.
“I’ve been a sneakerhead since I was little, and now that my feet will never grow again, I do indulge,” Johnson says. “I’ve got a problem, but it’s slowed down. I have four kids so they’re getting new shoes all the time. When I go to get them a pair of shoes I think, ‘That looks nice, let me get something.’ I may have a suit on, but I’ve got sneakers on, too.”