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New Assistant Director Johnson Supports DHA Digital Transformation

Image of New Assistant Director Johnson Supports DHA Digital Transformation. The Medical Education and Training Campus had the opportunity to highlight its mission of training the world’s finest enlisted medical professionals to Donald Johnson, the new Defense Health Agency assistant director, Support/Component Acquisition executive, during a tour of several METC programs where he observed training and met with METC faculty and staff July 18, 2023. (Photo: Lisa Braun, Defense Health Agency Medical Education and Training Campus)

Since his start in late May 2023, Donald Johnson, the new Defense Health Agency assistant director support/component acquisition executive, has jumped full force into supporting DHA Director U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Telita Crosland’s vision for the Military Health System.

In his new position, Johnson sits at the center of operations that have a major impact on military health care. He oversees $2.3 billion a year in acquisitions and procurements in the areas of public health, research and development, medical logistics, contracting, and enlisted service member medical training and education.

“In the next decade, we’re going to see a transformational change in how we deliver health care, as well as the technology, in the Military Health System as well as the commercial health system,” Johnson said.

Key Priorities and Artificial Intelligence

Johnson’s key priorities are innovation, asynchronous communication, industry and academic partnerships, and a team effort with the DHA workforce to move toward the final wave of transformation of military health care.

Innovation is “going to require changes in how we do contracts … how we provide logistics, and how we provide public health,” he explained.

“Asynchronous communication is about dashboards and communicating progress. It's that transparency in how we organize to support different regions with regard to contracting, logistics, public health, IT, and our acquisition and research areas,” he said.

“The message to industry about how we deliver care is changing, how we deliver technology is changing, which is pivotal for industry to get behind,” Johnson said. “Our partnership with industry is critical as we evolve.”

Artificial intelligence innovations from industry and academia are “front and center,” Johnson said because of AI’s ability to provide converged databases and common data repositories that support “predictive analysis with wearables and other technologies where you can improve your health before you get sick.”

“It would be wonderful to partner with those entities researching AI today … to advance us even faster,” Johnson said.

DHA’s Workforce and the Future

As a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, Johnson has seen firsthand how the MHS provides top-notch care both as a service member and as a parent. While in industry, he said, his son became ill. He had private insurance but chose to go to the military hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, because of its reputation for excellence.

Johnson described his new position as his “dream job” because of the can-do spirit and pride of DHA’s workforce.

“It's a privilege that we all have, and this is an opportunity we cannot squander,” Johnson said. “To do that, it is going to be a collaborative team sport where it is not divisional and organizational barriers any longer … it's teams working together seamlessly.”

“We’re seeing that vision of disparate, individual health care systems changing to a common vision and direction in an integrated system,” Johnson said.

“We have such an opportunity to build upon the excellence that's already in this organization with a leader who has the vision to take this workforce into achieving, as she describes, extraordinary experiences ordinary and exceptional outcomes routine.”

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