Peter Anto Johnson knows the life-changing difference that access to good medical care can have on a child. Born in rural India, he was diagnosed with intussusception, a developmental abnormality that causes severe intestinal obstruction, at the age of 11 months and later required emergency surgery.
“My parents didn’t have the resources to get me to a private hospital. The doctor said if I was even a second late for my surgery, I wouldn’t have survived.”
That experience drives Johnson’s ambition to create systemic change through research and public health initiatives. As an undergraduate, he helped start PLAY (Physical Literacy for Active Youth), a program that connects preschools and day-care centres to volunteers that help young children develop healthy habits. He is currently a medical student at the University of Alberta, where he studies alongside his identical twin brother.
But medicine is just one of a broad scope of Johnson’s research interests. In the summer of 2020, he co-founded Sharpen the Quill, a national internship program for youth who have been left without opportunities for professional development during the pandemic. The remote program recruits emerging writers, graphic designers, audiobook narrators and sound engineers to design e-books and other multimedia content.
His passion to promote accessibility also inspired him to join Mission: AstroAccess, a program with the goal of launching individuals with disabilities into space.
“We’re all patients on different spectrums in terms of our health,” says Johnson. “No one should be denied their dream because of a label.”