Poipu Beach Rotary names Johnston great humanitarian

Once a year, members of the Rotary Club of Poipu Beach (RCPB) search the island looking for an individual who best exemplifies Rotary’s motto of “Service Above Self,” club members said in a press release.

That individual doesn’t need to be a Rotarian, but does need to be a partner, whether knowingly or not, in one of Poipu Beach Rotary members’ goals.

Health services to children, especially underprivileged children, are one such goal.

Dr. Michael D. Johnston of Kapa‘a has received this year’s “Great Humanitarian” award from RCPB leaders, for contributions not just in the Kaua‘i community, but to the larger community around the world.

Having practiced as an anesthesiologist for more than 20 years, Johnston is known island-wide for promoting the highest levels of medical care for Kaua‘i’s citizens.

RCPB members appreciate those high standards and, in fact, several club members have personally benefitted from his care.

Nonetheless, it is his medical interventions overseas that impress RCPB members so much. Johnston has devoted himself to repairing facial birth defects in indigent children around the world.

Year after year, time and time again, Johnston has answered the call, and volunteered his time and energy to work on Rotaplast (Rotary plastic surgery) medical missions in difficult situations.

Rotaplast is a project of members of Rotary clubs across the country. Rotaplast leaders send medical teams to developing countries to repair cleft lips and palates, often as many as 13 times a year.

Without apparent concern or complaint for the difficulties of performing surgery with old and inadequate equipment in sweltering heat in Viet Nam or the Philippines, or in the cold, high-altitude conditions of the Peruvian Andes, he just focuses on the children.

“They’re just little kids with nobody else to help them,” says Johnston. “If we can repair their facial deformities, then at least they have a chance at a normal life,” he said.

To date, more than 600 children have been repaired on Rotaplast missions in which he has participated.

RCPB Director of Vocational Service, Nancy Erselius, recounted the club members’ admiration for Johnston’s work. “The Rotary Club of Poipu Beach applauds his actions and his attitude of ‘Service Above Self,’ and commends his selfless dedication and tireless effort.

“We recognize Michael D. Johnston as a ‘Great Humanitarian.’ May his example be an inspiration to all who share our goal of promoting opportunities for a normal life for children everywhere,” she said.

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