Randy and Judi JohnsonRandy and Judi Johnson

A leader in oncology nursing

Adult education alumna Judi Johnson, PhD ’79, is a pioneer in supportive care for cancer patients

During the 1960s and ’70s, new drugs and therapies were having an impact for cancer patients. Cancer was no longer a death sentence but treatable and sometimes curable. Quality of life throughout treatment was a growing need, and oncology professionals began to look at how to provide both treatment and supportive care.

Judith L. Johnson, PhD ’79, was a pioneer in that movement and is still making a difference today across the medical field.

During her nearly four-decade career at North Memorial Medical Center, Johnson challenged the stigma of a cancer diagnosis and started programs to support patients in a holistic way. She established the first cancer support group in the Twin Cities and launched educational programs so patients could be informed about their diagnoses and treatments. That support program model, which came out of her dissertation work, was soon adopted by the American Cancer Society for nationwide use. She also was a founding member of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer, a groundbreaking organization that recognized supportive care as a field of study.

In addition to her work with patient support and education, Judi Johnson has promoted the field of oncology nursing around the world. She was a key consultant in establishing the Asian Pacific Oncology Nursing Society and has worked internationally with academic institutions to set up nursing and oncology programs, including in Japan and England.

Johnson, a registered nurse who earned a master’s in public health at the U and her doctoral degree in adult education in CEHD, received the University’s Outstanding Achievement Award on August 4, 2018.

“Judi offered hope, knowledge, and support at one of the scariest times in anyone’s life, being an active cancer patient,” a longtime friend remarked. “She exemplifies the University of Minnesota’s commitment to the state, its students, the nation, and internationally.”

Read more about the University’s Outstanding Achievement Award.

Learn more about programs in adult education in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development.

Story by Ann Dingman | Photo by Jayme Halbritter | Winter 2019