Twin med students receive international honour

· The Pulse

Twin brothers from Edmonton have received the Diana Award, an honour bestowed in memory of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, to young people who have inspired others to serve their communities and create global change.

Peter Anto Johnson and John Christy Johnson, 25, are third-year medical students at the University of Alberta. Peter is in pediatrics, and John is in biomedical engineering.

"They're just exceptional," said Dr. Austin Mardon, who nominated the twins for the award. He noted that they've co-authored more than 100 publications while continuing to volunteer their time for many causes. "They're pretty well-rounded people."

Among the efforts the Johnsons were recognized for is Sharpen the Quill, a youth literacy program started in 2020 for youth who were left without opportunities for professional development during the pandemic.

"The program seeks to allow students to publish academic works, poems, and prose in scholarly journals as well as ... any multimedia work," said Peter, who was named to Edify's Top 40 under 40 in 2021. "It's expanded to a $2-million program."

John, who was recognized by Edify in 2022, has co-founded two social enterprises. One is Click & Push Accessibility, which empowers wheelchair users and others with mobility challenges to anticipate difficult-to-navigate terrain. The other is UMove, which takes decommissioned power wheelchairs and transforms them into manual wheelchair trainers for kids with cerebral palsy.

Peter conducted research that validated the use of a smartphone app and other readily accessible technologies to aid in the resuscitation of newborn infants, particularly in low-resource countries. He also led RuSH (Run for Support and Health), a student group that organized fundraising through charitable runs, and founded Physical Literacy for Active Youth.

Two young men stand, one with his arm around the other's shoulders, on a city street

The Johnson twins — Peter Anto and John Christy — were added to the Diana Award Roll of Honour for 2022. (University of Alberta/Office of the Registrar)

The twins were born in India. Peter was diagnosed with pediatric intussusception, a developmental abnormality that caused a severe intestinal obstruction, for which he had surgery when he was 11 months old. They came to Canada at age 6.

"I owe my life, really, to the care that I received," Peter said. "I believe that whatever we do should be aimed at helping the less fortunate people who don't have access and the people who are more vulnerable in our society."

Mardon noted that the Johnsons aspire to become astronauts, and "barring some problems, they might be able to achieve that." The pair have been a part of Mission: AstroAccess, an international effort to make space accessible to candidates with disabilities.

The two aren't sure what comes next, but they know it will involve finding "ways that we can save lives and promote health," John said.