Pediatrician Retires after Decades of Service to Community
According to Hidalgo Medical Services (HMS), after 25 years of practicing pediatrics in Silver City, Dr. Don Johnson has decided to retire. Dr. Johnson shared, “It was a hard decision for me because I enjoy interacting with the families so much. I haven’t been able to practice pediatrics since the beginning of the pandemic and discovered that retirement really suits me. I like having more time to hike, play tennis, read and complete art projects. I look forward to traveling more in the after-pandemic future and spending more time my kids and grandkids.” The Johnsons have two grown children and three grandchildren who all live in Colorado.
HMS Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrick Nelson, stated, “Dr. Johnson and his wife, Vicki, have both helped HMS accomplish its mission of positively impacting the health and well-being of those we serve. Additionally, Dr. Johnsons positive impact will continue to reverberate throughout our community due to his involvement in teaching the next generations of physicians and healthcare workers.”
Dr. Johnson shared that he and his wife, Vicki, came to live in Silver City after practicing pediatrics in Michigan for 23 years. The couple agreed that if they moved, it had to be to a place that was practically perfect and met their needs for continuing their professional careers. The place also had to have an outdoor environment that, as Dr. Johnson said, “would keep us fit and happy.” After a long and careful search, the Johnsons found their new home in Silver City.
The Johnsons arrived in Silver City in 1996, having been recruited by GRMC to replace a pediatrician who had recently moved away. Dr. Johnson had active staff privileges at GRMC from 1996 until 2015 serving as Chief of Pediatrics from 1997 until 2001. Don was co-owner of Gila Pediatrics where he provided care for hundreds of area families until 2005 when the practice merged with Hidalgo Medical Services. He was a pediatrician with HMS for 15 years. Dr. Johnson shared, “Besides practicing pediatrics, I really enjoyed being involved with teaching the family practice residents. I think HMS does a great job of preparing the residents to practice effective and respectful medicine.”
In addition to providing medical care for children and their families, Dr. Johnson has volunteered on many community organizations. He worked with health advocates from the Health Department and the Silver and Cobre Schools on their Fitness and Nutrition Committees, addressing healthier food choices and more active life styles for students. He was a member of the Grant County Community Health Council from its inception in 1998 until 2013, serving as Chairman in 1998 and 1999 and remained on the executive committee for 14 years. While looking back to his time with the Health Council, Dr Johnson said, “The Health Council served a vital role by bringing together leaders who represented a wide variety of sectors of our community advocating for policies enhancing better health countywide.” He was Chairman at the time when HMS was selected as the Federally Qualified Health Center for Grant County.
Susie Trujillo who served on the Health Council with Dr. Johnson said, “Don was our ‘go to’ guy – we could always count on him to be honest, caring, ethical and knowledgeable. He would never steer us wrong. He has always been such a valued and valuable resource for our community. And, I might add, his artwork is beautiful, his crab lasagna is delicious, and he’s a really nice guy.”
Upon hearing about Dr. Johnson’s retirement, Amy Quimby, a mother of two young children said this: “Dr. Johnson has been such an important part of my family’s healthcare. He has been my two children’s pediatrician since they were born. My kids love going to the doctor because he always made it fun. He would answer all the endless ’why’ questions from both me and my children. It seemed like there was nothing he didn’t know or couldn’t find the answer. He is such a great doctor! He has been an inspiration to my eight-year-old daughter who now aspires to be a ‘kid doctor’ just like Dr. Johnson. As a mother, I always felt supported by Dr. Johnson and could call him in a moment of panic to hear his calm reassurances. We appreciate Dr. Johnson for all he has done for me, our kids, and our community.”
Vicki brought her advocacy for healthy development of infants and families to Silver City, starting the program that came to be known as First Born now having a presence in a majority of New Mexico’s counties. “I am really proud of what Vicki and I did in creating the First Born Program. We worked hard to develop a program that makes a lasting and significant difference in the lives of first-time families,” Dr. Johnson remarked. He said that the First Born Program’s excellence has been recognized by a variety of state and local organizations such as the New Mexico Public Health Organization, the Silver City Business and Professional Woman’s Organization, the Con Alma Foundation, the Grant County Chamber of Commerce, Ethics in Business Commission, and others. In 2002, the First Born Program was named one of the Nation’s 10 Most Innovative and Exemplary Prevention Programs. “The success of First Born ultimately exceeded our ability to keep up so in 2018 the Program moved north and became part of Santa Fe Community College’s Early Childhood Center of Excellence where the program continues to grow and expand its services,” explained Dr. Johnson.
Dr. Johnson reflected that he knows he will miss interacting with both children and parents. He hopes he has made a difference in both the lives of families and in our community – he knows both have made a difference in his life. Dan Otero, HMS CEO, stated, “Dr. Johnson and Vicki have both had a major positive impact to our community over the years, and the many patients and families that have benefited from their commitment to service and healthcare is unprecedented.” “On behalf of the HMS Board of Directors, the leadership team, and all the employees at HMS, we wish you a well-deserved and happy retirement,” stated Mr. Otero.