Member Spotlight

Dr. Brandon Johnson

Brandon JohnsonDr. Brandon Johnson has been a member of the Dean’s Leadership Council since 2002. He is a hematology and oncology physician with East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, Ala., and is the chairman of the hospital’s cancer committee. In the photo, Johnson is seen with long hair, a style he has embraced over the past year as he is growing his locks with the intention of donating them to "Beautiful Lengths." Beautiful Lengths is a program sponsored by Pantene that provides free, real-hair wigs for women with cancer.

An East Alabama native, Johnson lived in Notasulga before attending Auburn University, where he received a bachelor of science in molecular biology in 1993 and a master of science in microbiology in 1996. He attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, where he now serves on the admissions committee, completed his residency in internal medicine at Baptist Health System in Birmingham, Ala., and concluded a fellowship in 2008 with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. In his free time, he enjoys saltwater fishing, golf and snow skiing.

Johnson’s wife, Donna ’94, also graduated from Auburn and holds a bachelor of science in social work. The couple lives in Auburn and they have two children, Brooke and Scott.

How and why did you get involved in the Dean’s Leadership Council?

As soon as I finished residency and moved back to Auburn, I contacted COSAM and asked to help out. I wanted to give back to COSAM as much as possible. Part of that was financial, but I also wanted to better understand the system that educated me and see how I could improve it. It’s also a wonderful way to meet COSAM students and help mentor them. Lastly, I think it’s vital to the university as a whole to have input from people “outside” the university.

What qualities do you possess that make you uniquely qualified to be a member of the Dean’s Leadership Council?

I’ve spent about eight years as an undergraduate and graduate student of COSAM. Now, as a local physician, I have pre-med students shadow me frequently in the clinic, which is vital for them to get experience and enhance their medical school applications. It gives me an opportunity to show the students how COSAM changed and shaped my life, and I encourage them to make the most of their educational opportunities.

Why did you decide to grow out your hair for “Beautiful Lengths?”

Well, it sounds a little corny, but in reality, I want my patients to realize that I'm very serious about helping them in any way possible. We use chemotherapy and other strong drugs to combat cancer, but that's not the only facet to treating a cancer patient. We have to be aware of their social situations, financial situations and even the way they see themselves. Cancer patients frequently lose their hair due to chemotherapy, and this can be traumatic. I thought this was a simple thing I could do to show that even when I'm not at work, I'm trying to help those who need it. Additionally, it sparks questions from patients and other family members, and tends to stimulate others to do similar things — donate to food pantries, volunteer for organizations like "Relay for Life" — basically anything to help our patients. When you show patients and families that you literally are willing to donate parts of yourself to help them, it gives them hope and confidence.

Of what in your career, thus far, are you most proud?

Simply taking good care of my patients. Auburn provided me with a goal of lifelong learning. I read every day to stay up-to-date in my field of practice. My goal is to provide every single patient, no matter how sick or how well, something to help improve their lives.

What do you believe are the greatest strengths of COSAM?

The faculty is top notch, and the entire organization is always looking to improve. I love that COSAM seems quite balanced, meaning there is focus on research, outreach, diversity, student education, etc.; but not too much in any one direction. I think the entire college has a priority of premier undergraduate education, but the other areas do not suffer.

As a COSAM donor, what areas of the college do you support and why?

My number one area of support is to the COSAM general unrestricted fund. My tendency is to simply give to COSAM and let the administration decide exactly where to use those funds. We also support the athletics program and the band program, as well as the College of Liberal Arts. But obviously, I am drawn to the pre-medical aspect of COSAM. I believe we do an excellent job of preparing our pre-medical students for admission to, and success in, medical school. The application process has changed dramatically over the past few years and will continue to do so. Additionally, the pre-medical undergraduate classes will change very dramatically over the next 10 years, and I hope to help COSAM adjust to those changes.

Why do give of your time, talent and resources to COSAM?

My experience with COSAM, as a student and now as an alumnus, has been nothing but wonderful. Auburn University is a special place, and COSAM itself feels like a family within that place. I maintain friendships with friends and faculty that I met as far back as 1989. My goal is to continue to grow my involvement in the pre-medical program within COSAM and assist with changes that will need to be made in the coming years.