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Planning your Professional Life with Dr. Peter Johnson

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Career advice from the guy that has done it all.

Author: Travis Block | Category: Around Campus | October 27, 2014

Dr. Peter Johnson has quit more jobs than most ever will. At 38 years old, he was running an NIH funded lab, had a successful career as a reconstructive surgeon, and was the founder and president of the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative. This is when he was offered a job as the chair of the Plastic Surgery Department at Case Western. For most, this would define a successful career, however, for Dr. Johnson, this inspired him to quit his job and move to industry.

After resigning at Pittsburgh, he started and later sold TissueInformatics, and has since been an executive at a number of biotech companies. Currently, he serves as executive vice president of Vancive Medical Technologies, Co-Editor-in-Chief of Tissue Engineering, and President as well as CEO of Scintellix Consulting. In addition, he takes time to publish novels, speak to students across the country, and take an annual bike ride in the European countryside with his wife.

Last week, he traveled to San Antonio to meet with students, give a seminar, and present at the BME Journal Club meeting. He spoke about his career path and offered advice on how to make sure your career plan is appropriate for your strengths and goals. He walked us through a couple of his favorite techniques for doing this, and allowed the university to post his slides  online. While he did offer prescriptive steps for creating a career plan that’s right for individuals, his talk was more motivational than technical. Perhaps the biggest theme of his talk was not being afraid of risk as he repeated again and again, “risk is the only legal, long-acting, performance-enhancing drug.” He cautioned against being pessimistic and playing it safe, and encouraged everyone to take risks to achieve their goals and reassured everyone that risk would bring out the best in them and help them land on their feet.

Later at the BME Journal Club, he discussed the editing process at the Journal of Tissue Engineering and offered advice on how to optimize your publication strategy. Afterwards, he offered to give future talks to the journal club remotely on topics related to publishing and editing journal articles. No dates have been finalized for this, but the journal club is excited to host him again.

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