Dr. Philip Johnson, director of the Division of General Internal Medicine, is being honored with his wife, Linda, for their volunteer service to the poor of Guatemala.

Faith in Practice, a nonprofit dedicated to serving the poor of Guatemala through short-term medical mission trips, will honor the Johnsons at its annual gala, “Called for a Reason,” which will be held Oct. 21 at the Westin Galleria in Houston.

The Johnsons have been leading Faith in Practice volunteer teams on weeklong medical missions for more than a decade and have a long history of providing medical outreach to this Central American country.

“I first volunteered to go to Guatemala when I was 16 years old, and that was my inspiration to go into medicine,” Johnson explained. “I later did a two-month elective while in medical school, and then my wife and I honeymooned in Guatemala.”

The Johnsons returned to Guatemala with their church in the late 1990s and led various groups there on community development mission trips.  Their work with Faith in Practice began in 2006.  The ensuing 16 medical and surgical teams have inspired faculty colleagues, residents, and students to join them in their volunteer work.

Professor and vice chair of the Department of Internal Medicine, Johnson completed his medical school and residency at Baylor College of Medicine and did his fellowship in infectious disease at McGovern Medical School. He has served as division director since 1989.

“Originally I didn’t think we could do much in a week, but I’ve learned you can begin something and other groups can come in and build on it. Medical students participating on a team learn to do a lot with clinical sense and a rudimentary lab. Having continuity in referrals over the year is key,” he explained.

Faith in Practice volunteers serve on two types of teams. A  Village team is composed of people trained in internal medicine, ob/gyn, pediatrics, dentistry, ENT, dermatology and pharmacy, and sees more than 2,000 patients in a week in remote villages.  “We will refer about 200 patients for surgical care by a later Faith in Practice team,” Johnson explained.  “Surgery teams perform much needed general, ENT, ob/gyn, orthopedic and/or plastic surgeries in one of two well-outfitted surgery hospitals in Guatemala.  Faith in Practice sends about 40 one-week trips a year.”

Johnson already has two trips planned in 2017 – a village trip in January and a surgery trip in April.

“Many patients who are referred for surgery have been suffering with their problems for a long time,” he said. “What I enjoy most is being refreshed in why I became a physician. The people we treat have absolutely no access to free or reduced cost medical care in Guatemala, and they are very appreciative. We learn much from them.”

To learn more or to volunteer with Faith in Practice, go to www.faithinpractice.org.