April 1, 2017

Kevin Johnston | Helping others achieve success one workshop at a time

Kevin Johnston considers himself an administration and logistics guy in his role as program coordinator for the Cumming School of Medicine’s (CSM) Office of Faculty Development (OFD).

Kevin Johnston considers himself an administration and logistics guy in his role as program coordinator for the Cumming School of Medicine’s (CSM) Office of Faculty Development (OFD).  When workshops need to be put on, he is the one who puts all the pieces of the workshop puzzle together.  

Workshops offered by OFD can help faculty members achieve success in their academic roles and through every stage of their career.  “We have top-tier workshop facilitators who want to help you in your career.  It can be tough to get noticed in a busy world,” he says. “The workshops provide a wealth of knowledge that could change how one would normally do something, from giving a presentation, to having a tough conversation with someone, to sharpening your leadership skills.” 

It can be a busy time co-ordinating all the workshops, but Kevin finds the workload less daunting if he is listening to music. “I tell my manager, if I can’t listen to my music, I can’t work.  It’s that important to me.”  His most treasured possession is his music collection.  An avid music lover, he gets endless joy from listening to CDs, mp3s and even good, old-fashioned records.  “I eat, sleep and breathe music every day.” 

Originally from Halifax, Kevin has a BA in political science and history, which he followed up with a master’s degree in history, studying the Central Intelligence Agency’s involvement in drug trafficking in the 1980’s.  Despite his education and experiencing life at university as a student, Kevin never imagined himself working in a post-secondary setting.  

A meet-up with his aunt was the start of a huge change in his career path. “It happened after we went to lunch one day and I told her I was looking for a job.  That conversation changed the whole trajectory of my life.”  It led to a job at Dalhousie University’s medical school. His path before that fateful lunch with his aunt? “If not for her, I might be serving coffee in Halifax right now.” 

Working with undergraduate students, arranging their clerkship and elective rotations was Kevin’s job prior to moving to Calgary from Halifax in 2012 for a job at SAIT.  Within two years, he was back working at a medical school, first in the undergraduate medical education office here at the CSM, and then moving to his current role with OFD. 

Kevin thoroughly enjoys his role with OFD and working at the CSM. “I work and interact with people of staggering intelligence on a regular basis. I am frequently amazed when I sit in meetings and realize I am the least educated, least smart person there,” he jokes, “I’m so grateful for that opportunity to learn from others.”  He says although he is often “on the outside looking in”, it is a privilege to see the things he sees. “Medical schools are rarely boring places to be.” 

Despite his young tenure here, Kevin is extremely proud to be a part of a medical school celebrating its 50th anniversary.  “We produce amazing physicians and scientists.  We should be proud of what we’ve accomplished but continue to strive to do better,” he says.  And where would he like to see CSM go in the next 50 years? Pushing the boundaries of science and medicine, and be bold in embracing the future. “This is a young institution, and we are not set in our ways like other medical schools.  We should strive to always be ahead of the curve, ahead of the times.” 

In the meantime, Kevin is co-ordinating workshops to help our scientists and physicians achieve every level of success, while listening to his music and living his personal motto – “One day I’ll be dead, so I’m going to rock out right now.” 

Tidbits from Kevin:

If you could make a living doing anything of your choice, what would it be? “I’ve always thought being an investigative journalist would be a mind-blowing job.” 

What is something about you people would be surprised to hear? “I can be painfully shy but can do a great job hiding it.”  

What does a typical weekend look like for you? “Probably a marathon of documentaries interspersed with a stop at the Cat Café in Kensington or the Zoo.” 

When you were a child, what did you want to do when you grew up? “When I was a kid I wanted to be a Mountie, then a lawyer, then a journalist.” 

What advice would you give your 16-year-old self? “Don’t trust time travelers who give you advice.” 

Who do you most admire? “It’s a toss-up between Tommy Douglas and Terry Fox – Tommy Douglas for the health care and the idealism, and Terry Fox for the iron will.”