The new name of a bridge in Graham is that of a name everybody around here knows — Dr. Patricia J. Johnson.
The N.C. Department of Transportation dedicated a bridge on N.C. 143 over West Buffalo Creek as the Dr. Patricia J. Johnson bridge on Saturday in honor of the well-respected health care provider.
A group of friends, family members, and local officials surprised Dr. Johnson when she walked through the doors of the fellowship hall at Cedar Cliff Church, less than two miles from the bridge.
A welcome table invited guests to leave memories in a visitor’s book. Old photographs and newspaper clippings decorated the table, along with a stethoscope and Dr. Johnson’s lab coat.
The Saturday surprise delighted Dr. Johnson.
“I don’t know about this bridge thing,” she joked with the crowd. “I’m not so sure I want people driving all over me forever.”
Dr. Johnson has been a part of the Graham County community since 1976 and served the area for more than 45 years as a medical doctor. She provided enhanced family medicine to Graham County and other underserved rural residents of North Carolina and Tennessee.
“I love this community and I love medicine,” Dr. Johnson said. “I know some of your family members better than you know them. As a doctor, you feel like you’re part of the family.”
With no hospitals in Graham County, Dr. Johnson served as the local primary care physician, specialist, ER doctor and OB doctor as well. She started the birthing center at Tallulah Health in 1980, provided care at Britthaven of Graham County Nursing Home, and helped bring in specialists before doubling the number of exam rooms at the facility in 1986.
The N.C Board of Transportation unanimously approved a resolution dedicating the bridge in Johnson’s honor last fall.
As the NCDOT resolution states, “During her 45-plus years of practice, Johnson was able to offer extended services to the people of Graham County so rural patients would not have to travel for health care.”
The application packet for the dedication included letters from Veterans Advocate Connie Orr, the Graham County Historical Association, the Graham County Rescue Squad and Linda Buchanan of Adams Contracting.
The letter written by Graham County Historical Association president Edd Satterfield states, “Dr. Johnson has served our community and surrounding areas for decades and cared for generations of families. She pioneered wellness education in our small Appalachian Community and she no doubt saved countless lives through her knowledge, persistence and education.”