Alfred University News

Groundbreaking medical school dean, alumnus Dr. Robert L. Johnson '68 to offer Alfred University commencement keynote

Alfred University alumnus Dr. Robert L. Johnson ’68, who broke ground as the only dean in U.S. history to lead two medical schools simultaneously, will deliver the keynote address for Alfred University’s 2023 commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 13. Commencement begins at 10 a.m. in the Galanis Family Area, McLane Center.

Johnson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Alfred University in 1968, went on to receive his medical degree from the College of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (now the New Jersey Medical School) in 1972. He is dean of the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark, NJ, and interim dean of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, NJ. (Johnson is of no relation to the namesake of the latter.) In addition to being the only medical school dean serving at two schools simultaneously, he is one of only a handful of African Americans serving as medical school deans. 

Johnson’s contributions to society are noteworthy as well. In the early 1970s, fresh out of medical school, he was among a group of young professionals working in the fields of medicine, psychiatry, law, education, social work, and the arts who recognized a need to invest in New York City’s youth. In 1972, the group started The Door, a program aimed at helping a diverse and growing population of disconnected adolescents gain the resources needed to succeed in school, work, and life.

Today, The Door annually serves nearly 11,000 young people from all over New York City. The program provides a wide range of free services including reproductive health care and education, mental health counseling and crisis assistance, legal assistance, GED and ESOL classes, tutoring and homework help, college preparation services, career development, job training and placement, supportive housing, sports and recreational activities, arts, and nutritious meals. Johnson still sees patients at The Door twice weekly.

Johnson, who joined the faculty of the New Jersey Medical School in 1976, has enjoyed a teaching career that spans nearly a half century. In addition to serving as the Sharon and Joseph L. Muscarelle Endowed Dean, he is also professor of Pediatrics and director of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

His clinical expertise and research focuses on adolescent physical and mental health, adolescent HIV, adolescent violence, adolescent sexuality, health equity and family strengthening. He chairs the New Jersey Governor’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS and the Newark Ryan White Planning Council. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Vice Chair of the Community Prevention Task Force of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Johnson is a former member of the Board of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education at the National Academies of Science. He has previously been the President of the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners, the Chair of the US Department of Health and Human Services Council on Graduate Medical Education, a member of the National Council of the National Institute of Mental Health, member of the NIH AIDS Research Council and member, Institute of Medicine, Health Care Services Board.