Atlantic

Medicine marks a milestone

Dalhousie alum marks 40 years since becoming Nova Scotia’s first black pharmacist

written by Ross Andersen
February 8, 2017 5:16 pm

Bruce Johnson’s interest in medicine began as a child, when he was given a chemistry set for Christmas. The rest is history.

That chemistry set led Johnson to become Nova Scotia’s first black pharmacist.

The lifelong Yarmouth resident made his claim to fame upon graduating from Dalhousie’s School of Pharmacy in ’74, at the age of 22 years old.

“Medicine has always been a passion of mine for my entire life and to this day it fascinates me,” said Johnson.

It was a turning point in Johnson’s life – although at the time, he was not quite aware of the significance of his accomplishment.

“Whether it was being a part of different committees such as the curling club, or the YMCA, I was often the only person of colour – especially being raised in a small community,” said Johnson.

“When I was initially told I was the first black pharmacist in Nova Scotia, it had never before crossed my mind.”

Johnson says Dalhousie was a key part in his success.

“It is a difficult time for black youth in the education system, but if you stay in school, your quality of life will better,” said Johnson.

The pharmacist’s success wasn’t only in labs, but also on the basketball court. He played for the Dalhousie Tigers, and continues to coach basketball.

“Bruce’s kind, gentle manner, and his ease of conversation and sense of humour always allowed him to connect with people in a positive way,” said Lorne Richardson, a fellow Dalhousie alumni.

Richardson graduated one year behind Johnson in ’75 from Dalhousie’s School of Pharmacy. He describes Johnson as a modest man of character and compassion.

“I am pleased for having the opportunity to have met him,” Richardson added. “I would trust what Bruce tells me and I know that I could always get a straight answer from him whenever I need assistance.”

Johnson explains that he was taught the trait of responsibility, which allowed him to raise a family, and is carried with him to this day.

Johnson’s eldest daughter, Vanessa, has followed in her father’s footsteps: she is a pharmacist in Moncton, NB.  The father – daughter duo may practice medicine separately, though together they continue the family legacy.