University of Florida pharmacy school Dean Julie Johnson wins Distinguished Scientist Award

Julie Johnson, Pharm.D., dean of the University of Florida’s College of Pharmacy, has won the 2015 Distinguished Scientist Award from the Southeastern Universities Research Association.

The award and its $10,000 honorarium are presented annually to a research scientist whose work fulfills SURA’s mission to strengthen the scientific capabilities of its members and the nation. SURA is a nonprofit consortium of over 60 research institutions in the southern United States and the District of Columbia.

Johnson said the award is especially meaningful because the group’s member institutions are engaged in many different kinds of scientific research.

“It’s a huge honor because it’s one that comes from outside the biomedical field and a broad-based award that included nominees from many scientific disciplines. My hope is that this shines a really positive light on the university and the opportunities that UF created for me,” she said.

Johnson’s work and research deserve particular acknowledgement, but her collaborative leadership and commitment to excellence bring added stature to her career and merit for the award, said Gordon Gee, president of West Virginia University and chair of the SURA Council of Presidents.

In nominating Johnson for the award, UF Vice President for Research David P. Norton, Ph.D., wrote that her research has impacted the lives of millions of people who take warfarin, a blood thinner used to prevent heart attacks, strokes and blood clots. In 2013, she was a member of the collaborative team that found a way to make a blood thinner safer by linking a gene variation to the dosage for some 40 percent of African-Americans who are prescribed the drug. In addition, her research has led to substantial advances in the understanding of antihypertensive and other cardiovascular drugs.

As the head of UF’s Personalized Medicine Program, Johnson’s work has led to the use of genetic information to guide drug therapy decisions for patients at UF Health Shands Hospital, and her efforts have made it a leading program nationally in genomic medicine, according to Norton.

“Her current focus in genomic medicine implementation will help advance the future care of patients to an approach that is personalized based on their unique genetic information,” Norton wrote.

Johnson has been recognized internationally for her work in cardiovascular clinical pharmacology while maintaining “an undying commitment to training the next generation of scientists in her field,” Norton wrote. She has obtained over $35 million in funding and published over 230 peer-reviewed publications and 120 peer-reviewed abstracts. Amid her active research, Johnson has remained extremely dedicated to training young scientists. She was instrumental in developing the Clinical Pharmaceutical Sciences graduate training program in the College of Pharmacy and has been the primary mentor to more than 30 research trainees.

“The Southeastern Universities Research Association could not have picked a more deserving candidate for the Distinguished Scientist Award than Julie Johnson. She has excelled in every role she has taken on here at the University of Florida. We are most fortunate to have her here within the UF community,” Norton said.

Johnson joined the UF faculty as an associate professor in 1998 after nine years with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. She went on to become a distinguished professor in pharmacy and medicine, and in August 2013 was named the seventh dean of UF’s College of Pharmacy. She is a member of the prestigious Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.

The SURA Distinguished Scientist Award was established in 2007, commemorating the organization’s 25th anniversary. SURA’s Development & Relations Committee manages the solicitation, screening and selection of the recipient from a SURA member institution. The president and trustee of each of SURA’s 62 member research universities are eligible to make one nomination for the Distinguished Scientist Award.

The award and honorarium will be presented to Johnson during a SURA meeting in Athens, Georgia on April 29.

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