Shannon Johnson

Director for Mental Health, Naval Medical Center
Whitworth University, Class of 1988
Shannon Johnson Headshot

​​As I reflect back on my life nearly a quarter of a century after I graduated from Whitworth, I am more aware and appreciative of my liberal arts education. Whitworth equipped me with a foundation for lifelong learning, a strong sense of purpose, and a desire to serve. My liberal arts education and experiences prepared me well for a challenging career as a navy officer and military psychologist during a time of war. ​

I am particularly grateful for the critical-thinking skills that I sharpened during my time at Whitworth. The coursework required me to challenge assumptions, logically work through problems, and clearly explain my position. I was exposed to new ideas and worldviews that broadened my perspective and prompted me to clarify and articulate my own beliefs. The capacity to think flexibly, consider diverse views, and manage ethical conflicts has been essential in my role as a clinician and leader often under stressful circumstances. 
Campus life and the small-classroom environment at Whitworth afforded me important opportunities to live with students from diverse backgrounds, learn how to communicate respectfully, and gain practice working collaboratively to accomplish a shared mission. These experiences and the skills they fostered have been invaluable in the military settings where I have served around the globe. Whether deployed on a ship for months at time, living in crowded tents in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan, or providing services to military families in Japan, a respect for others, an appreciation for diversity, and a capacity to work cooperatively on teams have been critical. These proficiencies also have served as the foundation for my development as a leader in the navy and my success in executive medicine.   
I am grateful for my liberal arts education at Whitworth, where my professors were committed to developing whole persons and intentional about the integration of faith and learning. My peers and I left Whitworth with a strong desire to become agents of change in the world and prepared to serve humanity. While the details of my unique mission were not clear at the time of my graduation, I was equipped with the confidence and motivation to seek out opportunities to serve.  For me, that opportunity came when I earned my PhD in clinical psychology and accepted a commission as a U.S. Navy officer.
The faith foundation I cultivated at Whitworth has been the bedrock of my resiliency through five arduous combat deployments and has helped me stay centered and focused on the mission at hand, despite traumatizing events on the battlefield. Undoubtedly, my experience at Whitworth both inspired and equipped me to adopt a style of servant leadership that has allowed me to have an impact on individual lives and the military’s mental-health system beyond what I could have ever imagined a quarter of century ago.     

Shannon Johnson, a commander, currently serves as the director for mental health at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia. She provides strategic oversight for a full range of clinical services in three departments: psychiatry (inpatient and outpatient), psychology, and the Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program.
She earned a BA in education with a special education endorsement from Whitworth College (now Whitworth University) in 1988. Following graduation, she was employed as a special education teacher while completing her MEd in counseling and guidance at Whitworth. She went on to earn a PhD in clinical psychology from Rosemead School of Psychology in La Mirada, California. In 1998 she was commissioned as a U.S. Naval officer and reported to the Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) to begin a career as a navy psychologist.
From 2000 to 2003, she served aboard the USS Carl Vinson and completed two Western Pacific deployments. The Navy then sent her to Boston, Massachusetts, where she was accepted into the Harvard Medical School/Children’s Hospital Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychology. Following her post-doctoral training, she served as director of educational and developmental intervention services at the Naval Hospital Yokosuka, where she was responsible for six divisions across mainland Japan.
She returned to NMCSD in the fall of 2006, and soon was deployed with an army unit to Baghdad, Iraq. She returned to Iraq with the marines in August 2008. While assigned to NMCSD, she served as the head of the fleet’s largest mental health clinic in the Pacific. In 2010, Commander Johnson was deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Upon her return a year later, she assumed the duties of director for mental health at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton. During her tour she oversaw the delivery of care to U.S. Marines returning from deployment with combat-stress related conditions and traumatic brain injury.