While completing his medical school and psychiatric residency at the U of MN, Alex Johnson, MD, discovered that the M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center hospital would be an ideal location for a consult-liaison (CL) psychiatry educational team consisting of medical students and residents, given the complexity of medical conditions treated at the hospital. CL psychiatry focuses on the intersection and interplay of medical and psychiatric conditions. After recently becoming an assistant professor in the Department, he is excited about taking on the challenge of helping to build a University consult team from the ground up.

Johnson enjoys working with learners. “Having them in the clinical setting means that teaching happens every day, whether it’s one-to-one mentoring or short didactic talks,” he said. “I will also be involved in the more formal didactic lectures given to second-year residents. It’s one of the main reasons I decided to stay in an academic setting. I was inspired to pursue psychiatry because of the faculty I worked with during my psychiatry clerkships, and I hope to do the same for any students working with me.”

Alex Johnson

Johnson (pictured here) completed his undergraduate degree in cell and molecular biology (Magna Cum Laude) from University of Minnesota Duluth. That foundation helped him appreciate the biological aspects of psychiatric illness, especially when prescribing medications. “Almost all of our medications work directly on cell receptors,” he explained. “Having a good understanding of that is important as you explain to patients and other medical professionals how our medications are thought to work and understanding how they can cause other effects elsewhere in the body. A strong biology and medical background is also essential to caring for patients with severe medical and psychiatric illness. “

It was while he was completing his medical degree and psychiatric residency on the Twin Cities campus that he discovered his passion for psychiatry. “During medical school, I initially wanted to go into neurology; however, in my psychiatry clerkships I saw how life-changing mental health care can be for a wide variety of conditions, and all of the faculty and staff I worked with were passionate both about teaching and patient care."

Following graduation, Johnson completed a Consult-Liaison Psychiatry Fellowship at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. “They have a huge CL psychiatry service, including outpatient experiences,” he said. “Along with inpatient CL training, I worked in outpatient perinatal psychiatry, psycho-oncology, addictions, and transplant psychiatry. This program sees CL psychiatry as the gateway for a huge number of patients to receive psychiatric care, a model I want to replicate here.”

Johnson will be practicing primarily inpatient consult liaison psychiatry in the West and East bank hospitals in Minneapolis. “I will see patients hospitalized on medical floors who have any type of psychiatric issue, whether it’s a medication question, acute psychiatric illness along with medical illness, or capacity issues,” he said. “You have to understand what patients are going through and how their medical issues intertwine with their psychiatric issues.” He will also have a half-day clinic every week working with the Women’s Wellbeing Team focusing on perinatal psychiatry.

When he has some free time, Johnson enjoys walking his two dogs, a black Lab mix and a Galgo (a Spanish breed). He also hikes, bikes, and lifts weights, and is passionate about disc golf. 

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