“I’ve seen the burden of disease that minority populations face during the cancer journey,” says Johnston. “The biggest issue is always at the end of life. After someone suffers from health disparities throughout their life, I find the worst indignity is not being able to get care consistent with your wishes and goals at the end of your life. That’s why I focus on palliative care, to address the low utilization of this care.”
Lathen started sharing information about Johnston’s research with her close friends, colleagues, and former college roommates and classmates, and asked them to help fund his work. On her behalf, numerous people have written checks to Johns Hopkins in support of Johnston’s studies.
Johnston’s mission is personal for Lathen. “I saw my great grandmother go blind, have a leg amputated, and die at 60 years old,” she says. “I feel grateful to be able to enjoy a longer life span than so many of my beloved elders who were affected by lack of access to adequate health care or by affordability issues.”
Adds Johnston, “Deborah has helped spread the word about the research, and that partnership is invaluable. Since the pandemic began, it has forced everyone to appraise what is optimal care and how we can obtain it.”
In August 2021, Johnston received a grant from the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, to continue the work that Lathen has helped sustain.