Robert Johnson, pharmacy innovator and industry staple, dies
Robert Johnson, a highly regarded pharmacy educator, practitioner and pioneer in the field of pharmacy benefits management, died peacefully in his sleep March 2 after a long struggle with cancer.
Johnson’s passing drew an outpouring of condolences from many of the pharmacy leaders who said they benefited from his counsel, friendship and guidance over a long career in pharmacy. A 1962 Masters of Science graduate of Wayne State University, he began his career in independent pharmacy, later serving in numerous state and national pharmacy organizations.
Some of his many roles included: executive director of the Michigan Pharmaceutical Association and the California Pharmaceutical Association; president of the American Pharmaceutical Association (now the American Pharmacists Association) in 1974-75; president of the National Council of State Pharmaceutical Association Executives; and board chairman of the Scottsdale Healthcare System. Johnson was also an active participant in Phi Delta Chi Pharmacy Fraternity.
From 1990 to 1995, he served as corporate VP of McKesson Corp. and rose to become chairman of PCS Health Systems, one of the industry’s largest pharmacy benefit management firms prior to its purchase by CVS Caremark (now CVS Health). Following his retirement from that post in 1995, he served as a health consultant and, later, as an adjunct clinical professor at the University of California and as an assistant dean at Midwestern University College of Pharmacy.
Upon his retirement from PCS, he was honored by the company for being “a pioneer in developing the concept of a true partnership among pharmacists, plan sponsors and pharmacy benefit managers in order to improve the quality and effectiveness of pharmaceutical care.”
Johnson was also the 1993 recipient of APhA’s Remington Honor Medal, established in 1918 in the name of pharmacist, manufacturer and educator Joseph Remington to recognize distinguished service on behalf of American pharmacy.
Praise for the pharmacy leader came from many quarters. APhA executive VP and CEO Tom Menighan called Johnson “one of the greats in American pharmacy” and “a mentor to me when I joined the APhA staff the first time in 1987, early in my association career.”
Brian Correia, VP-network business services for CVS/Caremark, called Johnson “a legend in the managed care pharmacy industry.”
University of Minnesota College of pharmacy professor Lowell Anderson said, “Bob's national leadership as an association exec in California contributed to a state association culture of dynamic associations seeking to advance the profession's mission of successful practitioners providing quality services. His mentoring and leadership resulted in many state association execs who were able to successfully lead their respective states.”
Anderson called Johnson “one of the giants of the profession” and a mentor to many. “When I was speaker of the APhA house he provided leadership…that kept the membership focused and committed to addressing substantive issues,” he told DSN. “He was political in the best sense of the word, using process to help lead the house forward.”
“When I was president of APhA, as a former president he provided quiet mentorship that significantly improved my capacity to lead,” Anderson added.
“Most would agree that his greatest legacy was to leave every organization he touched in better shape than when he arrived,” added Don Dee, former executive director of the Minnesota Pharmacists Association.