Serving Through Science (A Passion to Learn and Determined to Serve)

From a young age, Rebecca Johnson '01 felt called for two things - science and serving. As the daughter of a firefighter/EMT and an older sister of a child diagnosed with autism, Rebecca was determined to serve her family and community with her passion for science.

Rebecca pursued that passion for science in high school when she took EMT classes. But Father Wilfred Theisen's freshman symposium class and Michael Reagan's molecular biology course focused her on biology during her first year at Saint Ben's. Aside from her studies, some of Rebecca's fondest memories at CSB include the close friends and support system she developed while on campus. "These strong relationships and the encouragement from my professors and peers helped me find my voice," says Rebecca. She graduated with a major in biology, a minor in chemistry and the determination to serve.

Instead of going directly into medical school following graduation, Rebecca pursued a career in biotechnology. She worked at R&D Systems in Minneapolis, Minn. for a few months following graduation before accepting a position at Gentra Systems in Plymouth, Minn. While at Gentra Systems, Rebecca became especially interested in molecular testing leading to an interest in molecular pathology. So she decided to attend medical school. "I had initially thought about going directly into medicine, but I'm glad I didn't," says Rebecca. "My experiences in the biotech industry helped to shape my view of medicine and provided me with a greater sense of the importance of accurate, meaningful laboratory results."

It was during her time in medical school that Rebecca put her two passions of science and serving together. Rebecca worked with Dr. Scott Selleck at the University of Minnesota Medical School on autism genetics research. She feels that this research, including the paper she was able to publish on human molecular genetics, is the single greatest thing she has done. "My sister was diagnosed with autism before most people (doctors included) knew what autism was," says Rebecca. "I gained an incredible sense of duty, that if I had the ability to do something in this world that would help others, I needed to do it in honor of those that couldn't."

Following medical school, Rebecca completed both surgical pathology and hematopathology fellowships at UC San Diego and Scripps Green Hospital in San Diego. She most recently joined a private practice group in Chino, Calif. as a pathologist. As a pathologist, researcher and mother of two, Rebecca has three simple lessons she always carries from CSB: Listen (for new information/perspectives), learn (change your opinions if needed) and stay open-minded.