Medical Memoirs: Joy Johnson on helping the most vulnerable residents stay healthy through faith and hard work

YOU MIGHT SAY that Joy Lee Johnson’s life has completed a circle of destiny in her 38 years. As Polk County’s director of Indigent Health Care, she works in a building that was once Polk General Hospital — where she was born.

Although in a way she’s right back where she started, Johnson has packed a lot of life into those years — and feels good about where the path has taken her. “I believe that God puts things in our way, and he put this organization in my path 18 years ago,” Johnson says of her role with the county. “I was 19 years old, and had not even begun undergraduate studies.”

Today, the married resident of Lakeland and mother of two oversees the large department that provides care for the county’s uninsured who cannot afford to pay for their own care. As director, she oversees the operations and strategic direction of the Indigent Health Care Division. “I make sure our team ensures the people of Polk County who need some type of healthcare (and cannot afford it) can get it — while also making sure we are being a good steward of voter-approved funds,” she points out. Her division administers those funds.

Her faith plays a large role in her life and in her work, she says. And she is enjoying both. There are always new twists and experiences, she says. “Every day seems to bring new opportunities and challenges — whether it’s planning, budgeting, tracking information, or forming new partnerships,” she says. “I would like to think I know how a day is going to go based on what is on my calendar … but with so many moving parts in the division, the only constant in a typical day of work is change — and prayer. That’s how I start my day — with prayer. Things change, and we must be flexible with schedules and priorities.”

She and her husband, Craig, are raising daughter Payton, 7, and son Jaxon, 4, as each work at their full-time jobs. Craig is an environmental technician for the county’s Natural Resources Division.

Johnson is a graduate of Warner University, where she obtained a degree in organizational management and a master of science in management. She attended classes as she worked her way up the ranks to her current role. “I went where I was led, and I worked hard,” she states.

It’s rewarding work, she says. “The best part of the job is when I realize something I’ve done or worked on has made a difference,” she explains. “The idea that I am part of something that positively affects another person by making them healthier or helping to meet a need is rewarding.”

Although she clearly has a serious outlook on her career, she says a sense of humor is also key. “It’s healthy to be able to laugh at yourself once in a while,” she says. “It enriches the journey immensely.” In today’s modern world of high-tech communication options, she says she still likes good old face-to-face conversations. “It seems that no one can escape email, though. I just think you lose a personal touch and the ability to develop a true relationship with people.”

“I sometimes wonder what it would be like to live off the grid — then I’m reminded how handy it is when I can use it as leverage to get my kids to clean their rooms.” After her journey to arrive at her current job, she seems content to address the day-to-day issues that role brings. “I don’t have a long list of career goals, except that I want to continue to be a servant,” she continues. “I enjoy problem-solving, and naturally tend to push myself to the next level. I know that God has plans for me, and my trust is in Him — my future is in His hands.”



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