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april 2017 member of the month

Yeva Johnson, MD, MPH, FAAFP

Yeva Johnson, MD, MPH, FAAFP works on the locked dementia ward at Laguna Honda Hospital, teaches residents in the UCSF San Francisco General Hospital Family Medicine Residency Program and serves as the Vice-President and Treasurer for the San Francisco Academy of Family Physicians, the San Francisco Chapter of CAFP. A graduate of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Dr. Johnson completed her residency at UCSF-San Francisco General Hospital and earned a Masters in Public Health in Epidemiology from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.


Why did you choose family medicine, and what’s your favorite aspect of it?

There were two main factors for my choice of family medicine. One, I really liked pediatrics and geriatrics; I like all kinds and ages of people! Two, some of the nicest doctors I met were in Family Medicine. My favorite aspect is the flexibility. Family Medicine is very all encompassing. I get to do all kinds of different things and to focus my interest on the person, not the disease. I have been fortunate to work in a variety of settings and roles, holding responsibilities as diverse as being the medical director of a public primary care clinic, doing pandemic flu planning, leading the Maternal Child and Adolescent Health Section of the Health Department, and working as a hospitalist in a large multi-disciplinary long-term care and rehabilitation hospital.


Were you inspired by anyone to pursue family medicine?

Two people inspired me to pursue family medicine. In my fourth year of medical school, I was assigned to a longitudinal rotation in Family Medicine. That doctor took me on numerous home visits in addition to allowing me to shadow him at his office. He was a true Family Medicine hero. The other person who had a big impact on my decision was Steven Smith, MD, my advisor at Brown University. In addition to being a Dean, an elected official and a family physician, he was incredibly encouraging and truly helpful to my development as a physician.


What is the most interesting/memorable experience you have had when dealing with a patient?

I can’t pick out a single experience; there are so many. I most clearly remember the highs and lows…the births, deaths, cures and losses. These are the moments that seem to most profoundly change people’s lives and underscore the wonder and power of family medicine. Long ago I had a patient with colon cancer whom I referred to a surgeon. On the day I was in the hospital delivering his daughter’s first baby, I also got to go upstairs and visit him in recovery from the surgery which cured him. That was pretty amazing!


what one word or phrase characterizes your style of family medicine

Personal attention, love and care.


what is the best experience you have had during your career as a family physician so far?

Again, I don’t have a single experience to recount. There have been so many amazing highlights in my career. I have been able to see patients, work in public health, serve as a medical director and teach. Getting to be involved with all of these aspects of a career in family medicine has been a gift.


It is important for me to be a member of CAFP and AAFP because:

My involvement in CAFP is very important. It’s critical to support residents and resident programs. It’s also necessary to support our specialty, which has sometimes been under attack. In the hierarchy of organized medicine, family medicine often seems to be at the bottom of the totem pole, and yet we are also the leaders and at the leading edge of improving public health and improvements to patient care.


what has been your best experience as a CAFP member? Why?

My entry into CAFP involvement started with a funny story. My husband (Dr. Mike Potter) is the President of the SF Chapter of the CAFP. Roughly 20 years ago he asked me to “come to just one meeting with him.” I got roped in to being the secretary of the chapter, and eventually became the treasurer and vice-president. So much for “just one meeting!” Through my involvement, I have gotten to know folks like Shelly (Rodrigues) and Susan (Hogeland) and so many other great people. I really believe it is important to be involved in support and advocacy on the local, state and national level.


The most important resource I find CAFP offers me is:

The overall support for me as a family physician, and the person-to -person support! The annual Clinical Forum is an excellent conference. It is targeted to cover exactly what we need, and covers the diversity and breadth of what we do in Family Medicine. I also really benefit from and value the interaction and support I receive from being around like-minded people.


how do you make a difference in family medicine in your community?

I teach residents at the Laguna Honda Hospital and I am a practicing family physician in a multi-specialty, multi-disciplinary group. Currently I contribute through my work on the locked dementia ward, where I consistently utilize my FM skills and principles. I am able to be a “connector” and support my peers and other specialty doctors to work successfully with family medicine.


tell us about a project in which you are involved and why it is important to you:

My work on the locked dementia ward at Laguna Honda Hospital is very important to me right now. My goal is to help bring meaning to people struggling with dementia at the end of life, and help families enjoy their time together.


What are good qualities a family physician should have?

To be empathetic, ethical, a good listener, a nice person and an excellent advocate for our patients and to work toward their health and well-being.


Do you remember your personal statement for medical school? If so, would you like to share an excerpt?

I attended a special program at Brown University for which I was accepted to both college and medical school from high school. I am the first doctor in my family, and wanted to practice medicine from the time I was four years old. When I applied to Brown, there was a question on the application that asked why I wanted to be a doctor. I replied, “I really want to help people.” Thankfully, I was accepted.


What one sentence of advice would you give to medical students interested in family medicine?

“Go for it!”


How do you spend your free time?

Music, poetry, cooking and reading.


If you weren’t a doctor what would you be doing with your career?

Something involving writing, editing, or poetry, or possibly becoming an English teacher.


What would your best friend say about you?

I’m fun.


Tell us something fun/unusual about yourself:

I have an extremely vivid imagination. In addition to my appreciation for the arts, I am incredibly sensitive to scary images in films. My sister once dragged me along to see “Silence of the Lambs.” As soon as the music started I began screaming, and screamed throughout the entire movie. I haven’t been to a scary movie since.


Tell us briefly about your family:

My husband is an FM doctor; we met during residency. We have two growing sons, each with his own distinct personality. My sister lives nearby, as do several cousins and in-laws. We have a whole community of friends in the Bay Area who make up our extended family.


Each month, CAFP highlights one outstanding California family physician member who lends their voice, time, talent and resources to strengthen the specialty of family medicine and his or her community. The Member of the Month interviews are conducted by CAFP staff. If you choose to share this article, feel free, but give appropriate source and author information. If you would like to share your story or know a family physician colleague who deserves to be recognized for his or her impact or leadership, contact us at (415) 345-8667 or email.