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70 Years of Medicine • Dr. Joyce Johnson – Women of STEM – Medium

(Medical Doctor, retired || UT USA)

“People always had questions when they found out I was a doctor. How did you do it? What was it like being the only girl? I graduated from the BYU in 1951 with a degree in Medical Technology and Bacteriology, then worked in a hospital laboratory performing tests to help doctors treat diseases. I saw how fulfilling a doctor’s life could be. I knew female doctors were rare — I had never seen one, but began thinking maybe I could be one because I had good grades in classes with the all-male pre-med students. I decided not to marry my boyfriend who was on an LDS mission — the opportunity to pursue a challenging profession where I could help people, at the same time becoming financially secure — that was something worth working for. So I applied to the University of Utah Medical School. I was accepted within three weeks.

I started medical school in 1954. I was the only woman in a class of 50, but I didn’t care so much that I wasn’t a man. My classmates teased me terribly at first, but it was their constant good humor and companionship that kept me going. I chose internal medicine as a specialty because you had to know the whole patient — you could make a real difference in their lives. I completed my residency at the LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and was asked to remain there as the Doctor of the Outpatient and ER Department. I had my first baby two weeks before finishing my training — previously I’d decided if I were to have children, they would come first and my work second. The position came with regular hours, no nights, no weekends — it was perfect, and provided a real challenge. At the time the ER was a large room with a gurney, EKG machine, and tackle box with a few medications. When I left seven years later it was fully staffed and well-equipped, with ambulance and helicopter services.

I retired from internal medicine after 40 years, then practiced dermatology until I was 87. Medicine really gave me a full life. It was a privilege and a blessing to be a doctor.”


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