Dr. James Christopher Johnston

The 24th World Association for Medical Law (WAML) Congress held on 2-6 September 2018 in Tel Aviv, Israel.

The 24th World Association for Medical Law (WAML) Congress was held on 2-6 September 2018 in Tel Aviv, Israel.  Leading international experts discussed topics related to Global Health, Medical Law and Bioethics, with a particular emphasis on Humanitarian Medicine, Law and Ethics.

Drs. James C. Johnston and Mehila Zebenigus discussed the urgent need for guidelines to improve relations between the North and South, and thereby advance healthcare access in the least developed regions.

Dr. Johnston was the only member and representative from New Zealand, and Dr. Zebenigus represented Ethiopia.  They explained that the most effective way to improve healthcare access is to establish local training programs in developing regions.  However, this requires international support which has been hampered by the unprecedented growth of global health programs, especially at United States academic medical centers.  This growth is attributable to a number of factors unrelated to improving patient care – factors such as establishing a reputation or ‘brand,’ increasing publications, and generating revenue through government, private and charitable sources.

Dr. James Christopher Johnston discussed how these academic global health programs have created a scramble for Africa characterized by self-serving short term medical missions that are highly beneficial to the sending institution but fail to provide any substantive benefit to the host country.  In fact, he described how these types of medical missions can and do cause actual harm, thereby impeding medical care in the very regions where it is most needed.

Dr. James C. Johnston discussed the urgent need for guidelines that focus on ethically advancing collaborative partnerships between the North and South to improve health care. This topic followed Dr. Johnston’s lectures last year at the WAML meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan and the prior year in Los Angeles, USA, where he and Dr. Zebenigus highlighted the medical, ethical and legal problems created by Western countries engaging in short term medical missions to resource limited nations.

This year, Drs. James Christopher Johnston and Zebenigus focused on the specific guidelines and policy recommendations which they presented to the United Nations High Level Political Forum last year and earlier this year.  James C. Johnston, MD, JD is dually qualified and licensed as a board-certified neurologist and barrister, and uniquely qualified to deal with this very specialized area of international medical law.  Mehila Zebenigus, MD is a board-certified internist and neurologist well-versed in the intricacies of global health.

Dr. James Christopher Johnston was honored for his paper on this subject with the Davies Award for Public Health.  He dedicated this inaugural award to Dr. Zebenigus and the Ethiopian team.

In terms of disclosure, Drs. Zebenigus and Johnston are Directors of the non-profit organization Global NeuroCare® which focuses on advancing neurological services in sub-Saharan Africa and particularly Ethiopia.  Dr. Johnston serves as an Honorary Professor of Neurology at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia.

Global NeuroCare Statement: Addressing the UN 56th Commission for Social Development


James C. Johnston, MD, JD presented another statement to the United Nations 56th Commission for Social Development cautioning that any successful poverty reduction strategy necessitates improving access to healthcare for people with neurological disorders by increasing the recruitment, training and retention of physicians while protecting inherently vulnerable populations through ethically congruent collaborative partnerships. Dr. Johnston recommended focusing on improving the quality of care in tandem with quantity by prioritizing implementation of a development agenda with specific goals, targets and indicators promoting a Center of Excellence for Neuroscience in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The full statement may be accessed in the UN document repository:

UN Accepts Global NeuroCare Statement

The United Nations ECOSOC accepted a statement by Dr. James C. Johnston on behalf of Global NeuroCare for presentation at the 55th Session of the Commission for Social Development 2017.  In that statement, Dr. Johnston highlights specific recommendations for developing and improving health care services in resource limited areas.  He also suggested appointment of a Special Rapporteur or Independent Expert with a thematic mandate of Global Health to examine, advise and publish relevant guidelines for the ethical promotion of North-South collaborative partnerships, especially in Africa.

This represents an extension of the recommendations Dr. James C. Johnston submitted for the UN ECOSOC High Level Political Forum on 27 July 2016.


Global Health Programs – How to Improve

James C. Johnston, MD, JD recently published a written statement for the High Level Political Forum of the 2016 United Nations ECOSOC meeting.   This statement raised concerns that many of the global health programs at United States academic medical centers have focused on brief, self-centered medical missions to resource limited areas, which may cause significant harm to host nations.  Recommendations for improvement were provided.  A summary of this statement is available at the UN Documents Center online, and at Researchgate.

Neurology in Ethiopia: The First Decade

The Addis Ababa University Department of Neurology in Ethiopia recently celebrated the 10 year anniversary since inception of the neurology residency training program.  To date, 28 physicians have graduated and passed their board examinations to qualify as specialists in neurology.  Dr. James C. Johnston, serving as an honorary Professor of Neurology and External Examiner for the examinations recently commented:  “These dedicated physicians are excellent clinicians providing outstanding neurological care despite severe resource limitations.”

James C. Johnston, MD, JD is also founder of the non-profit organization which focuses on improving neurological care in developing nations.  GlobalNeuroCare has maintained Special Consultative Status with the United Nations ECOSOC since 2013.BlackLionHospital