MU’s Rebecca Johnson to Take on National Advisory Role

March 04, 2013

Story Contact(s): Nathan Hurst, 573.882.6217

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Rebecca Johnson, a professor at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, director of Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction, and the Millsap Professor of Gerontological Nursing in the Sinclair School of Nursing, has been elected to the National Academies of Practice (NAP) and the Veterinary Medicine Academy (VMA) as a distinguished scholar and fellow. Johnson will be inducted into the NAP in April during the organization’s annual meeting and forum.

The NAP was founded in 1981 to advise Congress in health care practice and delivery. The Academy comprises 10 interdisciplinary organizations: dentistry, medicine, nursing, optometry, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, podiatric medicine, psychology, social work and veterinary medicine. NAP fellows are considered among the most distinguished in their fields and are chosen only after a rigorous selection process. Membership is limited in order to maintain the Academy’s high standards.

Johnson earned her baccalaureate degree in nursing from the University of Dubuque, Iowa in 1980, her Masters of Philosophy degree from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland in 1982 (as a Rotary Foundation Scholar), and her doctorate from the University of Iowa in 1992. She joined the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing (SSON) in August 1999 as the Millsap Professor of Gerontological Nursing and Public Policy and shortly thereafter was given a joint appointment as associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) for her research on human and companion-animal interaction. She was promoted to full professor in the CVM and SSON in 2012.

Johnson established the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction (ReCHAI) in 2005. Her externally funded program of research and community projects merges her work on wellness and relocation of the elderly, assistance of war veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder and prisoners with the benefits of human-companion animal interaction. Her research shows that companion animals provide a unique source of social support and facilitate motivation for exercise and other wellness-promoting behaviors.

The author of many scholarly publications in peer-reviewed journals and books, Johnson presents her research findings nationally and internationally. She also is called upon as a consultant regarding the relocation of older adults, and human and companion-animal interaction programs. In 2005 she was named the University of Missouri’s William H. Byler Distinguished Professor, an award given for “outstanding abilities, performance and character.” In 2007 she was inducted as a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, the highest honor in academic nursing joining only 1,500 nurse academics nationwide to achieve such an accomplishment. In 2011 she had two books published by Purdue University Press: Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound: How You and Your Dog can Lose Weight, Stay Fit, and Have Fun Together, and The Health Benefits of Dog-Walking. Since 2010, she has served as president of the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations (IAHAIO), a global umbrella association of more than 40 organizations doing practice, education, or research in human-animal interaction. In July, 2013, IAHAIO will hold its triennial conference in collaboration with the American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians, and the AVMA’s 150th convention in Chicago, Ill.

Johnson’s studies have received funding from the National Institutes of Health, Missouri Foundation for Health, the Waltham Foundation, Pedigree Foundation, Banfield Charitable Trust, and the University of Missouri’s Mizzou Advantage One Health/One Medicine initiative, which facilitates collaborative research projects that benefit human and animal health.

“As a member of the NAP-Veterinary Medicine, it will be my privilege to help this wonderful organization continue to move the importance of the human-animal bond to the forefront with policy-makers nationally,” Johnson said.

The mission of the National Academies of Practice is to promote excellence in practice of health care professionals, and quality health care for all through interprofessional collaboration in service delivery, research, education, and public policy advocacy. To achieve this goal, NAP holds interprofessional healthcare policy forums, Congressional briefings, membership symposiums, and combined conferences. NAP also publishes public policy and position papers, distributing key findings to members of Congress, healthcare planners, public agencies and other interested parties. The Academy publishes the NAP Journal of Interprofessional Healthcare, a free, online journal focused on interprofessional topics in practice, education, research and policy.