Leaders in Belonging 2024: Awardee
Darrah DiGiorgio Johnson
President and CEO, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest
Darrah DiGiorgio Johnson is addressing gaps in reproductive health care and education by advocating for accessible, high-quality services at Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest. Her introduction of innovative health solutions and her commitment to comprehensive sexual education, have made critical health care services more inclusive and available to more people. By prioritizing equitable care rooted in compassion and accessibility, Darrah and a dedicated team of passionate health care professionals are working to build a world where every person can access the essential health care and information they need without stigma or barriers.
"Our goal is to ensure that every person, irrespective of their background, can access the care they need with dignity and respect."
- Darrah DiGiorgio Johnson
Amplifying access to reproductive health care through education and technology
When Darrah DiGiorgio Johnson joined the staff of Planned Parenthood in New Jersey nearly thirty years ago, she could scarcely have imagined that just ten years later she would be running one of the largest Planned Parenthood affiliates in the country. Now, nearly twenty years later, she is as enthusiastic about Planned Parenthood’s mission as ever. “I fell in love with Planned Parenthood as soon as I started, because I saw what happened to people who got good information, education, and the care they deserved.”
As the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Paciﬁc Southwest, she oversees 20 health centers in San Diego, Riverside, and Imperial counties, which see hundreds of thousands of patient visits each year. The affiliate provides a wide range of sexual and reproductive health care and educational services, including sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, birth control services, general family planning, gender affirming hormone therapy, cancer screenings, abortions, and vasectomies.
Johnson is widely considered to be one of San Diego’s most effective and inclusive leaders, leading one of San Diego’s most vital community assets. In partnership with a visionary board, and passionate and committed staff and supporters that reflect the diversity of each region, the organization has grown to be one of San Diego, Imperial, and Riverside Counties’ premier health providers.
As a strong proponent of comprehensive, age-appropriate, and medically accurate sex education, Johnson believes it is essential to create a world where every person can choose their own path to a healthy and meaningful life. “When we give people the tools they need to take power and control over their own bodies, we help them lead better lives, and that’s what Planned Parenthood is doing every day,” she says.
Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest is committed to providing a welcoming environment and top quality care to anybody who walks through their doors, regardless of their ability to pay. “We are there for people in their greatest time of need and we help them with as many resources as possible, often in circumstances where they feel alone and afraid,” she adds.
Under Johnson’s leadership, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest has become an innovative and responsive organization. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the team quickly launched a telehealth program, transitioned their educational system to online platforms, and made the necessary changes to ensure their doors remained open to all who need access to high-quality and compassionate health care.
Johnson and Planned Parenthood of the Paciﬁc Southwest’s work has taken on increased responsibility in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Johnson says that the proximity to Arizona, which at one point enacted legislation to restrict abortion access that is now being fought via a constitutional amendment, created a large influx of patients trying to access safe and legal abortion care. She notes, “We have been on the front lines making sure that people who need vital health care can get it. This is a difficult time in this country, but we’re proud of the work we’ve done to meet the gap in access.”
What keeps Johnson hopeful and driven is the people they serve—engaged and passionate individuals who bring life and energy to the mission of Planned Parenthood. The countless expressions of gratitude from patients, and the stories they share of feeling supported, taken care of, and back in control of their futures, are the rewards that fuel Johnson and her team’s dedication to the cause. It is this connection to the community and the ability to meet their needs with care and compassion that truly defines her leadership.
Darrah DiGiorgio Johnson is a visionary, an educator, a listener, and above all, a dedicated advocate for reproductive health care and rights for all. Her tireless work ensures that Planned Parenthood not only meets the current demands for reproductive health care but is also prepared to face future challenges with resilience and hope.