Tamara Johnson, MD is a Pediatric Resident. She graduated from Duke University in 2003 with a BA in Psychology and a minor in Dance and Women’s Studies. She later attended the University of Pennsylvania’s Special Science Program. She is a southerner at heart and always will be. She grew up in Greenville, SC and from a very early age she always knew she wanted to be a doctor.  Education was very important to her family, and she attended Catholic school from first through the eighth grade.  Realizing that a solid foundation was critical to achieving her dream, she applied and was accepted into her school district’s academic magnet program.  She continued to push herself academically, often at the expense of social activities, and she was rewarded with an acceptance to Duke University, her dream school!  However, what was a dream quickly became a nightmare- for the first time in her life she struggled with academics.  She had always been the smartest person in the class, the one everyone came to with questions, but now she had to work for everything.  Her self-confidence dropped and she no longer knew how to define herself without her grades.  For the first time, she honestly thought that she would never ultimately achieve a career in medicine. We interviewed Tamara for this edition of successful women and here are her responses on life and her career.

Please list a quote or motto you live by and state why.

Nothing worth having comes easy.  If you never work for what you have, then you will never appreciate it.

What drives you to succeed?

My family, in particular my parents, are my biggest motivator.  They have always supported me every step of the way and have sacrificed so much for me to be where I am.  Everything I do, I do for them even though I know I will never be able to repay them but at least I can make them proud.

Can you briefly describe the path you took to get to your current job? Did you have to make certain career moves? Any sacrifices along the way?


My path to medicine was not the typical one. I thought I would go the traditional route and go straight from undergrad; however, as aforementioned, I struggled academically my first two years.  As a result, I ended up taking three years off.  Initially, it was the worst thing that could ever happen to me, but in retrospect it was for the best because it made me a better applicant.  During that time, I regained my focus and enrolled in a post baccalaureate program at the University of Pennsylvania where I strengthened my science GPA.  I then found a job as a research coordinator doing autism research at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing.

How do you handle setbacks? Can you share one?

With grace. Everything happens for a reason, even if you do not understand it at the time.  There is always a lesson to be learned.  In my case, I learned that I was not ready for medical school and that if everything had gone according to my plan, then I would not have succeeded. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?


I love that I get to work with children everyday.  They are so honest and innocent and I love that I have part in not only shaping their lives but also impacting the world through them.

Where do you see yourself in the next five to ten years?


In the future, I see myself in private practice and being an advocate for child health within the community.  I want to provide medical care to the underserved, not only in my own community but abroad as well.

Any advice or words of encouragement you’d like to give to shalenadiva.com readers?

Never give up on your dream.  If there is a stumbling block in your way, it is just to see how bad you want it and how much you are willing to fight for it.

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