|Bill Johnson , YMCA of the USA|
|Visit YMCA of the USA 's website|
YMCA of the USA
After three decades as a hospital administrator, Bill Johnson knew it was time to quit.
“I truly enjoyed my 30 years in health care,” Johnson says. “It was very challenging and stimulating. In all honesty, I was tired.”
During a car ride with his wife, driving home from the funeral of his mother-in-law, it hit him. He wanted to leave his job. Life was too short to be overworked. “We were talking through it. We kind of came to the conclusion: Why not?”
At 58, Johnson retired.
“The day after retirement, at 4 a.m.,” Johnson recalls, “I woke up with sweat pouring down, thinking, `What have I done? I’ve lost my identity.’ And then it was, `OK, Bill. Now what are you going to do?’ I wanted to help people.”
Johnson and his wife moved from Florida to North Carolina, outside of Charlotte, a part of the country they loved. Thankfully, Johnson notes, the couple had the means to relocate.
Through a former colleague, Johnson found out about a job opening as executive director of The Ada Jenkins Center in Davidson, N.C. The nonprofit serves communities in need, through free health services, a food bank, job counseling and other programs.
There, Johnson witnessed the severe health problems that afflicted people in poverty. As a hospital administrator, he had been exposed somewhat, but not on this level.
“This was a population that didn’t have the knowledge, didn’t have the means, to join a health club, had a diet high in carbs,” Johnson recalls. “They came in with layers of complications. Many were diabetic with no hope, going down this dismal, dark road.”
After seven years at the center, Johnson knew it was again time to go. He was still enjoying the work, but he didn’t want the job to become “a burden rather than a blessing.”
The same former colleague that led him to Ada Jenkins recommended him for a program the YMCA of the USA is developing with the insurer UnitedHealth Group to teach people about diabetes prevention.
Johnson became a master trainer for the program, which was announced in April 2010. He travels from state to state teaching individuals how to be lifestyle coaches. Once trained, they lead group sessions as part of the 16-week program to help participants eat better and become more active.
“We’re helping coaches to understand the prevalence of diabetes and really to build a passion,” Johnson says. “They have the opportunity to help people reduce the risk of diabetes. We can reduce the economic costs and social costs.”
Johnson, now 68, says his experience in health care – including how to work with people and help them succeed – serves him today in helping to make a difference. “It truly was a pathway for me. That’s what I enjoy. It’s a continuation of what I learned, what I saw, and applying it in different settings.”
Visit the YMCA of the USA website