W. Phila. Health Center to be named for Penn physician

Dr. Bernett L. Johnson Jr.

     In the Cobbs Creek section of West Philadelphia, Dr. Bernett L. Johnson is recalled as a determined
University of Pennsylvania medical professor and retired Navy captain, who helped launch a community health center at a West Philadelphia high school.
    "Dr. Johnson was the backbone of the clinic," said Nancy Winder, a voluteer at the Sayer Health Center at Sayer High School at 59th and Walnut Streets. "He was dedicated to making sure things were done right." 
    Today, the health center, which opened  in 2007, will be renamed in honor of Dr. Johnson, who died of cancer last April at age 76.
      The Sayer Health Clinic, a full-service community health clinic at the rear of Sayer  High School was Johnson's dream, said Winder, who also works at the school.
      Although illness kept him from attending the groundbreaking, Johnson's planning helped bring the clinic to fruition.
   "Dr. Johnson was one of the ones who had the plan for the clinic before it was on paper," said Winder. "He followed through with it until his health failed."
      Dr. Johnson, a professor of dermatology and pathology and associate dean for diversity and community outreach at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, helped the clinic which serves West Philadelphia residents. The health center features two full-time staff physicians and treats more than 300 patients a month, according to the university.
     Dr. Johnson, who also was a retired Navy captain and an artist, is credited with developing the center's mission to provide education and high quality medical care.
From 1995 to 2006, Johnson was associate dean for the Veteran's Affairs Medical Center in West Philadelphia.
He joined the University of Pennsylvania faculty in 1984 and was interim chairman of the dermatology department from 1993 to 1995.
   Among those speaking today is Albert P. Black, chief operating officer for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
   Winder said Dr. Johnson "insisted that the community be involved in the planning and operation of the heath center." She said some community members work there and that two students from Sayer are working there as they pursue college studies in medical related fields.
    Dr. Johnson "insisted that the health clinic charged people according to their incomes," Winder said, adding that many people without health insurance receive quality health care at affordable prices there.
    "This health center has been a great inspiration to the community," Winder said.