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Bonny Johnson receives prestigious award

By Ryan Paulsen, The Daily Observer

Christian Peña / Courtesy Association of Community Health Centres
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Bonny Johnson was recently honoured with the Joe Leonard Award for her lifetime contribution to community health in the Ottawa Valley. The award is the highest honour given out by the Association of Ontario Health Centres.

Christian Peña / Courtesy Association of Community Health Centres
Bonny Johnson was recently honoured with the Joe Leonard Award for her lifetime contribution to community health in the Ottawa Valley. The award is the highest honour given out by the Association of Ontario Health Centres.

A local nurse practitioner, Bonny Johnson, has been awarded the most prestigious honour handed out by the Association of Ontario Health Centres (AOHC).

The Joe Leonard Award, named for the LAMP Community Health Centre's first executive director who helped a great many people over the course of his 25-year career.

"The purpose of this award is to recognize individuals like Joe Leonard," explains the AOHC website, "who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership, commitment and support for creative solutions for accessible, high quality and affordable health care."

Johnson started her career in health care after graduating from the Lorraine School of Nursing in 1974, working in long-term care and hospital settings before joining the primary care clinic of Dr. Edward "Mick" Pye in 1980. In the 1990s, when it became clear that there was nobody likely to take over primary care medicine in the area after Dr. Pye, Johnson began working on the development of a community health centre (CHC) and transitioning into the role of nurse practitioner.

Eventually, her efforts at organization and fundraising paid off, and two satellite clinics were set up -- one in Cobden and on in Beachburg. These in turn went on to collectively become the Whitewater-Bromley CHC Satellite.

"Community Health Centres develop programs and services that are very specific to the needs of the community, which is a wonderful thing," Johnson said in an interview with the AOHC.  "The model also allows the community itself to take ownership of their CHC. Over the period of time that Whitewater-Bromley has evolved -- and it's not always easy because not everyone agrees on direction -- everyone from board members to volunteers in the community who run exercise programs and other activities have contributed because they believe in the health centre, because they feel safe there. That, to me, is much different from health care being dispensed to someone. The community is an equal partner in the centre and their own care."

In his nomination letter, John Jordan, Lanark Renfrew Health and Community Services executive director, who also presented Johnson with the award, said that she "exemplifies the work of Joe Leonard towards a holistic approach to community health."

For Johnson, that holistic approach extends not just to the final product of health service, but all the way up the organizational ladder.

"Everyone matters," she said in the AOHC interview. "It's as simple as that. Because it's truly an interdisciplinary team, CHCs develop programs and services that are very specific to the needs of the community, which is a wonderful thing. The model also allows the community itself to take ownership of their CHC. Over the period of time that Whitewater-Bromley has evolved -- and it's not always easy because not everyone agrees on direction -- everyone from board members to volunteers in the community who run exercise programs and other activities have contributed because they believe in the health centre, because they feel safe there. That, to me, is much different from health care being dispensed to someone. The community is an equal partner in the centre and their own care."

rpaulsen@postmedia.com

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