When you first encounter Dr. Stacie Johns, a few things really stand out about this seasoned family physician: her warm smile, personable nature, and oh yeah…the friendly, four-legged friends that are never far from her side.
Like many doctors, Stacie is driven by an unmistakable urge to serve the underserved. It’s a passion that she channels into her family practice at Associates in Family Medicine, treating a wide range of patients from all walks and stages. Yet it’s also a passion that (quite literally) follows her through her daily comings and goings as she commits herself wholeheartedly to raising and training guide dogs for the blind.
Always an animal lover and ever a philanthropist, Stacie saw Guide Dogs for the Blind as an ideal way to give back and feed her longtime love of fuzzy companions. “I worked at a pet store in high school and constantly brought animals home,” Stacie says with a laugh. “We had chickens, ducks, rabbits, you name it,” she recalls. “But we didn’t have dogs, and I always really wanted them. So becoming a guide dog trainer was a great option for me to help others and also work with dogs.”
For Stacie and her family, being part of the Guide Dogs program is both richly rewarding and undeniably fun. “They give us so much while we’re raising them,” Stacie smiles, “but then they go and give a lot to the community too. It’s such a neat way to give and get all at the same time.”
And yet, the experience isn’t all fun, games, and wagging tails. Stacie is the first to admit some of the challenges that come with training guide dogs. “It’s awesome to have a dog with you all the time, but it’s also a ton of work,” she says. “You really have to work with them every day. Plus, I usually have both of my kids with me and a puppy,” she adds with a chuckle.
While Stacie’s 10-year journey with Guide Dogs for the Blind has not been for the faint of heart, the inspiring results at the end of a sometimes difficult path encourage her to keep on keeping on. “The journey from puppyhood to watching them graduate the program and lead someone fills me with such pride and joy,” Stacie shares. “Knowing how much that dog means to their blind partner because of the freedom they give, and to sense how amazingly bonded the person is to the dog, makes it all worthwhile.”
“My dad had a lot of medical issues when I was growing up, and I remember his various doctor appointments and hospital stays. It didn’t frighten me. Instead, I was inspired by the idea of helping people like him get better.”
When it comes to overcoming obstacles and unleashing potential, Stacie’s efforts certainly don’t stop with her dogs. In her practice at AFM, Stacie relies on outside-the-box thinking and relationship-building to guide patients toward empowered, healthy lives. “My absolute favorite part of medicine is the patients and the relationships I form with them,” she says emphatically. “The way I see it, I’m not a dictator as a physician; I’m an advisor.” She continues, “I work as a team with my patients, giving them the information and education they need to make the best decisions for them.”
As with her guide dogs, Stacie strives to be a steadfast partner in her patients’ progress, directing them toward healthy options and supporting them through the ups and downs. “I love motivating people to make change and celebrating their success with them,” she says. “But I’m also here to encourage and pick them back up if they fall. It’s never my job to judge.”
In the midst of training cuddly canines and working personally with patients, Stacie focuses on being a stand-out mom to her two young boys—passing on her relentless love for others and perpetual passion to serve. “We do a lot of charity work and activities for the food bank together,” she shares. “We also love visiting third-world countries a few times a year and exploring different cultures.”
From her professional endeavors to her personal commitments, Stacie’s heart for service and genuine spirit are constant sources of encouragement to those around her. And there’s nothing like a tail-wagging greeting from one of her ever-present pups to help brighten up the day.