Community Service to Research: Amanda McGill Johnson

Amanda McGill Johnson

Amanda McGill Johnson

This profile is part of a series to highlight the researchers who will be honored at a ceremony on Nov. 9 for UNMC’s Scientist Laureate, Research Leadership, Distinguished Scientist, New Investigator and Community Service to Research Award recipients.

Community Service to Research

The Community Service to Research Awards recognize the critical roles many community members have played in UNMC research, as facilitators, implementors, reviewers and collaborators, among other roles.

Amanda McGill Johnson has long been a champion of evidence-based science, from her eight years as a member of the Nebraska Legislature to her current role as executive director of Nebraska Cures. She has worked to raise public awareness of research, support innovation and bridge the gap between researchers and the public.

For her efforts, she is being recognized as a 2023 Community Service to Research Awardee.

McGill Johnson became executive director of Nebraska Cures in 2019, but she had served on the board and also worked with the organization while in the Legislature. Throughout her career, she said, it has been important to her to advocate for science-based public policy.

“It’s always been important to me to make sure policy makers are using hard science,” she said.

The impact of that personal mission became even clearer when the COVID pandemic struck, and scientific misinformation, and even disinformation, increased exponentially, she said.

“There is a lot of pseudo-information out there,” McGill Johnson said. “When people don’t understand something, the gut reaction is to fear it. That’s why it’s important to meet people where they’re at, to talk about personal experiences – sometimes even before scientific facts. I see myself as a communicator, and that is about building relationships and talking to people in ways they understand.”

In her role at Nebraska Cures, McGill Johnson works with a variety of experts at UNMC. Her nomination received support from Howard Gendelman, MD, chair of the UNMC Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience, Don Coulter, MD, director of the Pediatric Cancer Research Group, and others.

McGill Johnson’s outreach efforts have included webinars on mental health and addiction, programs on the environment’s impact of public health, social work and maternal health and other topics.

“Amanda’s commitment extends to disease prevention and public health, highlighting the broader societal and economic impact of medical research,” Dr. Gendelman wrote in his nomination letter. “Her advocacy contributes significantly to healthier communities, underscoring the importance of research investment.”

McGill Johnson continues to work with policy makers to educate and communicate on a variety of issues and research-related topics. She points to the 2022 passage of a bill involving patients’ needs for informed consent for certain therapies as an example of the benefit of working to inform policy makers.

“I hope to bring other people along with me in advocating for scientific research and solutions to some of our biggest public health issues,” she said. “We have to amplify the voices of researchers, and that takes voices from the community. I hope that I provide an example for folks interested in engaging in advocacy for evidence-based research.”

McGill Johnson said receiving the award made her feel grateful to the board members and volunteers with Nebraska Cures, many of whom are former researchers themselves.

“They’ve been the energy in helping support the organization for the 20 years it has existed. They provide the expertise to allow us to do our job well in promoting credible science.

“As I said, I’m a communicator. This is a message that I’m committed to sharing.”


  1. Carol Russell says:

    Carol Russell

  2. Kara Foster says:

    Congratulations, Amanda!!

  3. Alison Freifeld says:

    Kudos to Amanda McGill Johnson for this well-deserved award! She is indeed a terrific communicator and the perfect person to direct Nebraska Cures.

  4. David Crouse says:

    Nebraska Cures is very fortunate to have Amanda as our Executive Director. She is a natural leader, knows how to communicate difficult topics, and always does it with a smile.

    CONGRATULATIONS, Amanda. See you very soon!

  5. Cindy Ellis says:

    A well deserved award! Congratulations, Amanda!

  6. Heidi Keeler says:

    I still recall the great work done on behalf of mental health. So wonderful to see our hard-working community leaders recognized like this!

  7. Rick Spellman says:

    Amanda does a terrific job keeping fact based research on the front page saying far better than most about the need for this focus in our media today. Congratulations!

  8. Jim Turpen says:

    Congratulations Amanda, your advocacy and leadership in bridging science and our community have been so important Thank you.

  9. Kit Boesch says:

    Congratulations Amanda!!! What an incredible & well deserved honor.

  10. Jeremy Eschliman says:

    Congratulations Amanda! Well done.

Comments are closed.