Julie Johnson, MSPH, PhD'00
Professor of surgery, Feinberg School of Medicine; Research team member, Northwestern University’s Center for Healthcare Studies
A consummate international collaborator and an agile researcher, Julie Johnson examines surgical outcomes through the lens of clinical microsystems—small, interdependent groups of people who regularly work together to provide care for defined populations of patients. As part of the team at Northwestern’s Surgical Outcomes and Quality Improvement Center (SOQIC), Johnson uses qualitative research methods to examine surgical microsystems across 56 hospitals that are part of the Illinois Surgical Quality Improvement Collaborative (ISQIC). As its name suggests, ISQIC formed in 2013 to improve surgical quality by providing standardized, audited outcomes data to hospitals. Prior to her work at Northwestern, Johnson served as associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine at Australia’s University of New South Wales (UNSW), where she was a co-investigator of a grant that brought six universities and research organizations together to form the Centre for Research Excellence in Primary Healthcare Microsystems. With her work spanning the globe, Johnson also has evaluated clinical processes used by health centers in six European Union (EU) countries.
Johnson has served as a mentor to multiple new faculty and junior researchers (she says she strives to model her mentoring after her Dartmouth mentor Paul Batalden), and she is currently teaching courses at Feinberg such as Qualitative Research Methods and Fundamental Methods of Safety and Quality. A prolific author, Johnson has contributed to 92 peer-review publications, 46 book chapters, and five books—all related to quality improvement, patient safety, and clinical microsystems.
Johnson’s work helps drive practical change in clinical settings. As the result of her work with ISQIC, Johnson aims to help hospitals understand which high-performing practices drive improvement in surgical outcomes. Her work with the EU collaborative encouraged European hospitals to develop a more efficient model to integrate inpatient and community care through improved handover processes. And recently, Johnson has been working with the front line clinical teams at Northwestern Memorial Hospital to design, implement, and evaluate activities to improve care related to VTE prophylaxis and enhanced recovery after surgery protocols.
My thesis was on forming, operating, and improving microsystems of health care, and that continues to serve as my organizing framework for thinking about clinical work and how to improve its functioning. My experience at Dartmouth led to my career in studying microsystems on three continents—North America, Europe, and Australia—and this has been tremendous in building a network of international research colleagues and ongoing opportunitites. I also have been fortunate to continue collaborating with Dartmouth Institute colleagues on various projects including writing, research, and teaching.
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