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Visiting Professor of Surgery 2024 - Nathalie McDowell Johnson, MD, FACS

Medical Director of the Legacy Health Systems Cancer Institute and the Legacy Breast Health Centers  (Portland, Oregon)


Dr. Nathalie McDowell Johnson was the Visiting Professor of Surgery for Surgical Academic Week 2024 (March 4-8).

Visiting ProfessorA native of the island of St. Thomas, Dr. Johnson began her professional life as a dancer with the Ballet Theatre of the Virgin Islands and with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City. When her career focus turned toward medicine, she enrolled at Howard University in Washington, DC where she received her bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy technology. She received her physician training at the Medical College of Virginia (now Virginia Commonwealth University) and completed her residency and surgical internship at Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California (USC).

Dr. Johnson has served as the Commissioner of Health for the U.S. Virgin Islands. She was recruited to Oregon to develop Legacy Health-Good Samaritan’s breast health centers and to advance the care of cancer patients.  She is the past President of the American Society of Breast Surgeons and currently serves on its Board of Directors. Besides her clinical practice, Dr. Johnson plays an active role in research projects related to breast cancer.

After being diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer in 2013, Dr. Johnson credits this experience with giving her a deeper understanding of what patients go through during treatment. “My patient care philosophy is that we are not looking at a disease, but a whole person. We need to remember the holistic approach to care, so we treat the disease but we also think about the bigger picture,” she commented. Dr. Johnson is also passionate about creating access to excellent, affordable and equitable healthcare, and has stated that she believes with dedication, ingenuity and focus, this can become a reality. 

Sansum Clinic’s Visiting Professor of Surgery provides expert educational seminars for practicing Santa Barbara surgeons and physicians.  More importantly, the program allows surgical residents in training at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital the chance to interact with the icons, leaders and outstanding teachers of the art of surgery. 

Dr. Johnson presented a public lecture on Thursday, March 7 at the Wolf Education & Training Center at the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center at Sansum Clinic.

Breasts and the Surgeon: From Antiquity to Infinity 



This unique educational program is made possible by generous support from the Title Sponsor Cottage Health, and grateful patients, medical groups, individual community surgeons and physicians, and corporate donors.