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Meet the new president of Doctors Nova Scotia: Dr. Heather Johnson

Doctors Nova Scotia has a new president. Dr. Heather Johnson assumed the role at the association’s annual conference on June 12.Dr. Johnson has practised family medicine in Bridgewater for 20 years, and currently works within a collaborative practice with three other physicians and a nurse practitioner. Outside of the clinic, she provides inpatient care at South Shore Regional Hospital and makes house calls to homebound patients. Note: A resident who has worked in Dr. Johnson’s clinic is covering her office practice during her presidency; Dr. Johnson will continue providing operating room assists and hospitalist work at South Shore Regional Hospital.

In March 2020, Dr. Johnson assumed the role of Zone Medical Site Lead for South Shore Regional Hospital; some of those duties will be deferred to her colleagues during her tenure as President.

More than 65,000 Nova Scotians are in need of a family doctor. As a physician serving in a community that is experiencing doctor shortages, Dr. Johnson knows the importance of physician recruitment and retention. She supports physicians who are new to the community and works to retain physicians so that they can continue working as long as they would like to.

“I tend to be the point of contact for physicians who are trying to navigate the system,” Dr. Johnson said. “I enjoy supporting my colleagues and problem-solving.”

Her thoughtful perspective was formed while studying at Memorial University of Newfoundland Faculty of Medicine, from which she graduated in 1995. “I thoroughly enjoyed every rotation, and it was there that I first recognized family medicine as the foundation of health care. That’s why I chose family medicine as my specialty.”

Dr. Johnson has served on the Doctors Nova Scotia (DNS) Board of Directors since 2010, serving on a several internal committees. As a member of the Master Agreement Negotiations Team in 2018–19, she helped negotiate a contract that improved compensation for physicians working in key, hard-to recruit specialties and made some improvements to the work environment. The experience gave her insight into the many challenges and opportunities faced by physicians across Nova Scotia.

“I learned a great deal about policy and politics as we consumed vast quantities of information, listened to feedback from our colleagues, and sought innovative approaches to the issues facing physicians – at the same time considering the fiscal reality of the province,” she said.

Dr. Johnson said she didn’t anticipate one day throwing her hat in the ring to become DNS President, but that her knowledge of the association has deepened over the years, and eventually she felt it was time to use the wisdom she’s gained.

“Each role within the association has given me the knowledge and skills to advocate for my colleagues as we continue to move through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” said Dr. Johnson. “I’m also at a point in my career where, with a well-established practice and colleagues I can rely on, I can take on this challenge.”

One of her priorities will be to ensure virtual care is available to patients beyond the pandemic. “Virtual care has been found to be very convenient for patients who don’t require an in-person visit; it must be an option for providing care in the future,” she said.

Another area of focus is to support equity, diversity and inclusion in the health-care system. Doctors and patients have experienced misogyny, racism, exclusion and bullying. “I look forward to supporting Doctors Nova Scotia’s commitment to ensuring physicians and our patients have a safe, inclusive health-care system,” said Dr. Johnson.

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