'It has a special place in my heart': Physician assistant leaves military hospital and joins breast cancer fight

 
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Posted: 10/27/2011
 
After working for 10 years at premier military hospitals in major metropolitan areas, Heather Johnston is embracing the different world she has found as a physician assistant at Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center in Windber. "We are a small facility," Johnston said. "We all definitely have a good working relationship among the staff. "It's a nice feeling; kind of like a small-family feeling amongst everyone." The family atmosphere extends to Windber's regular patients, she added. "It is not like a big hospital where you don't always know everyone," Johnston said. "I think the patients appreciate the atmosphere. We pull from everywhere." Johnston and her husband, Memorial Medical Center emergency medicine specialist Dr. Gregory Johnston, moved to Southmont last year with their daughter, Kenzie. Their second child, Kaylee, was born here in July. They came from Washington, D.C., where they were on staff at the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Although there has been some adjustment, the family is embracing life here. "Coming from D.C., there is always that culture shock," Heather Johnston said. "But we love the slow pace here. "We have a young family. It's very important for us to have a neighborhood for them." The region's outdoor recreation opportunities provide a bonus for the active family, she added. It is not just the atmosphere and the community that is different. Johnston's entire practice has changed since leaving the Defense Department's medical world. "Coming from the Army, it was mostly men," she said. The Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center allows Johnston to specialize her practice in a way that was not available in the busy military hospitals. And breast cancer prevention and treatment was a perfect match. "Breast cancer runs in my family," she said, listing several relatives who were diagnosed. "It has always had a special place in my heart." The sophistication and technology in Windber's program and facility was a welcome discovery, she said. "It is just an amazing place for the comprehensive care," Johnston said, recalling how the military health system often required patients to make several visits to different facilities for treatments and procedures. "To get everything done at once was phenomenal," Johnston said. "It is really patient-centered care."
 
 
Tags: Breast Care Center  Healthcare Professionals