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Women mentoring other women key to creative path to success

MUSC News Center | August 12, 2013


Dr. Susan Johnson addresses luncheon attendees at the 2013 Influential Women in Business banquet hosted by the Charleston Regional Business Journal.


On July 11, 2013 I joined nine of my closest friends and colleagues at the Daniel Island Club for the 2013 Influential Women in Business Awards Luncheon. I was nominated by my friend and colleague, Amy Leaphart, for the Rising Star category and was chosen as one of three finalists. As my name was announced as winner and I approached the microphone to address the audience, I was incredibly moved by the gathering of beautiful, intelligent, successful women before me. It was truly humbling to stand before that crowd, knowing that each of the women in attendance – especially those seated at my table, were equally qualified and deserving of this distinction. I was also inspired by the successes of other finalists as they shared their stories, many of whom like me had overcome challenges and obstacles to achieve their career goals.

I joined MUSC in September, 2010 as wellness coordinator for the employee wellness program. At that time, I had been in “survival mode” after changing jobs in the midst of a divorce.  Although I felt overqualified for the position and title, I saw a rare opportunity to build from the ground up, molding the wellness strategy around my expertise and vision.  I accepted the position and never looked back, fighting through multiple challenges and barriers to realize my goal of creating a healthy workplace and culture of wellness at MUSC.  Three years later in my current role as director of the Office of Health Promotion, I am responsible for directing and managing system-wide initiatives related to organizational wellness and providing leadership in the development of a comprehensive and collaborative approach to promoting healthy to students, employees and the external community.

By far the most rewarding part of my job is seeing the impact reflected in the health of our community. I believe that policy and environmental changes that support healthy living are so important in helping people make better choices and through my work I have been able to contribute to that outcome. On a personal level, I love collaborating with different organizations and value the personal relationships I’ve built through these connections.

Looking back on the personal challenges I’ve faced, I realize that they are all too common among many professional women. I think the biggest challenge for women in general is how to balance work and family. As a single, professional, working mother, I have had to rely on many caregivers, friends and family to manage my personal life while pursuing a career. I think that has given me a greater appreciation for the sacrifices that are required to make it all work.  I also believe that women often find that the path to advancement is not as clear and direct as it is for men, therefore requiring creativity and proactively to progress within an organization.  My field in particular is difficult in that we have just recently begun to make progress in establishing the business case for wellness. That lack of professional history can negatively affect salaries and promotions as there are few benchmarks or comparisons for these positions.

 Johnson, center, holds her award surrounded by supportive colleagues.

I have experienced many challenges and successes that have influenced my professional choices and serve to inspire and motivate me to do more. I believe that each experience has been significant in providing opportunities to explore new thoughts and ideas that challenge and enrich my current perspectives and paradigm. I hope to find additional opportunities that will allow me to promote health and wellness in various sectors to reach a wider audience in our community as well as across the state and nation. I believe we are at a tipping point in terms of lifestyle-related health issues and I hope to play a role in advancing health promotion across all populations and settings.

As I reflect on the significance of this nomination and award, I’m reminded that success is not an individual accomplishment but a collaborative effort and is dependent upon many partners who share the same vision.  I am so fortunate to be able to work with so many incredible professionals who willingly share their expertise, talent, passion and skills to further the goal of creating a healthy community. Our collective commitment to not just lead, but model healthy behaviors through a supportive culture is what makes MUSC an impressive example to hospitals, businesses, and higher education of an innovative, health promoting organization. Working together, we can continue to change what’s possible.

Editor's Note: Inside Track is a periodic column by MUSC faculty and staff about the intersection of health matters and our lives. Dr. Susan Johnson is director of MUSC's Office of Health Promotion.



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Charleston Regional Business Journal awards 2013 Most Influential Women in Business   (CRBJ)

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MUSC Office of Health Promotion

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