Ghana library named after U-M Obgyn chair for devotion to curbing global maternal deaths
“People enter our lives and leave without making any impression, but Tim has made such an impeccable impression on the hearts and souls of every one he met in Ghana and West Africa” – Yao Kwawukume
It was a basic human need that compelled University of Michigan Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology Dr. Timothy R.B. Johnson to devote his life to global maternal health: Far too many women around the world were dying of preventable deaths.
The maternal mortality ratio in Ghana was dismal, the country steadily losing women in their communities to complications during pregnancy, childbirth and other health issues that could have been avoided simply by the right medical training and care. It’s what led Johnson down a path that has become his legacy: A 25-year collaboration between U-M and Ghana resulting in the training of more than 140 obstetricians in the country today.
Now, to honor Johnson for the difference he’s made in the region, a family health hospital established due to Johnson’s mentorship has named its library after him. The library at the Family Health Medical School, the first private medical school in the sub-region, is now called the Tim Johnson Library Complex.
“Tim is a man of many parts, an astute academician, a great teacher, a good listener and a mentor to all. Success and greatness to Tim means that even one single life matters and therefore Tim is compassionate with the total elimination of maternal death,” Ghanian representatives said in a letter about the naming.
“People enter our lives and leave without making any impression but Tim has made such an impeccable impression on the hearts and souls of every one he met in Ghana and West Africa.”
See the full letter from Ghana here.
For Johnson, it all started as a chance trip to Africa in place of a colleague unable to attend a Continuing Medical Education session in 1986. It was that visit that sparked more than two decades of partnerships between Ghana and the University of Michigan, starting with a residency program in Ob/Gyn funded by the Carnegie Corporation that continues with Ghanaian government support today.
“Dr. Johnson has been a longtime leader of our outreach efforts in Ghana. This honor is a fitting tribute to his commitment to teaching and training physicians who are improving health care in West Africa,” says James O. Woolliscroft, M.D., dean, Lyle C. Roll Professor of Medicine.
Since his first trip, Johnson has visited Ghana more than 30 times, spearheading a physician education effort that now includes specialty training at the University of Ghana Medical School and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. More than 200 Ghanaian students have been trained in Ghana, with nearly all of them opting to remain in the country after completing their residencies.
“I am stunned and honored to learn that the library complex at the Family Health Medical School has been named after me,” says Johnson, who is also the Bates Professor of the Diseases of Women and Children at the U-M Health System.
“Ghana has left such a deep mark on me, and it’s touching to see that there are people in Africa who feel similarly about the role our institution has had on their lives.”
“Maternal health is a human rights issue, and we have seen how critical academic partnerships can be in transforming medical care around the world,” Johnson adds. “We remain committed to our mission to strengthen and expand these partnerships to improve women’s health in West Africa and beyond.”
Learn more about global U-M work led by Johnson: