Pamela Garmon Johnson: Spurring Innovative Leadership in Healthcare

Pamela Garmon Johnson is a visionary leader dedicated to achieving health equity for all as the National VP of Health Equity and Partnerships and Executive Director of The National Hypertension Control Initiative at the American Heart Association. With unwavering commitment, she collaborates to address injustices leading to poor health and financial outcomes. Guided by her motto, “Let’s Make it Happen,” Pamela passionately works to effect positive change in healthcare, empowering her team with evidence-based strategies. She is a beacon of hope for a healthier, more equitable world.

As the National VP of Health Equity and Partnerships and Executive Director of The National Hypertension Control Initiative at the American Heart Association, I not only represent myself, but also my family, my community and my ancestors to ensure that they are represented at the table when decisions are being made.  I have accepted and carry the torch for those that bear the unnecessary brunt of the injustices that result in poor health and financial outcomes.  I strive to collaborate with others to enable equitable access  for others and their respective communities.  My definition of success constantly evolves as there is so much to be done to achieve equity while maintaining a healthy and peaceful life.  Someone once told me: “imitate the behavior of those who have been successful”. I do my job with integrity and transparency, while consistently advocating for evolved models to address complex situations.  My Motto is “Let’s Make it Happen.”  I will strive to do the right thing while never wavering on my belief system.

My dreams growing up were to be an attorney, so that I could effect change via the law for those that were disenfranchised.  I married a lawyer, so part of that dream is still connected to me.  I became passionate about healthcare, due to the significant death rate in my family and the community that I resided.  I saw my family lose limbs and eyesight due to obesity and diabetes, while trying to manage their blood pressure.  However, my family nor my community had options for better foods, exercise, etc.  They were doing the best they could with the resources that they had.  Because of my family’s business, we met people at their most vulnerable time of need and I wanted to work to address premature deaths.

Not being seen is a major challenge, coupled with speaking truth, but then very little action taken.  I had to learn how « to have the meeting before the meeting » and allow others to bring forward a concept and/or support the concept. 

There is the opportunity for leaders to gain an understanding about others as well as new strategies to impact change.  I offered a charge to my team many years ago, to get involved in a local organization and bring that learning back to the team so that those insights could impact our strategies.  That process allowed the team to “stop” doing some projects to “greenlight” new more innovative and sustainable projects.  Data informs strategy.  You cannot show up with your feelings,but come forward with the evidence and models that support your positioning.