Education was always important to Dr. Joni Johnson, but it didn’t come easy. In elementary school, she had trouble keeping up, so her parents would help her at night. She got high grades, but she knew something was wrong.
It was the same in middle school and high school, and at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where she succeeded by organizing study sessions where she could learn the material through conversations with her fellow students.
Then, in medical school, everything fell apart; there was simply no way she could keep up with the volume of material. The school had her tested and found that she had dyslexia and a visual convergence insufficiency, a condition in which the eyes do not work together to perceive nearby objects.
With her disability addressed, she went on to complete medical school and serve as a Brigade Surgeon in Iraq, as Chief of Pediatric Services at Fort Belvoir, as Medical Director of the ADHD clinic at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and as founder and Medical Director for Pediatric Partners for Attention and Learning, a multidisciplinary clinic committed to the diagnosis and treatment of individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities.
In 2018, she founded UnChartered Territory, a coaching and consulting practice which helps individuals with special needs and the caregivers who support them.
“When I look back at the way I struggled as a youth and a young adult, it was all because of having an undiagnosed learning disability,” Johnson says. “So, it just kind of made sense. I guess God put me here to work with this population.”
In completing Georgetown’s Certificate in Health & Wellness Coaching, Johnson learned how to transition from medical “authority” to “coach.”
“I really had to relearn how to be a provider and a support person, because a coach doesn’t direct anything,” Johnson says. “A coach guides and holds people accountable. But they don’t tell them what to do. They instead support what the individual values and what they need to do. And, to me, that was one of the biggest benefits of the Georgetown program.”