Dr. Allyn Johnson, 32, is, in a word—busy. She’s a full-time partner at Drs. Dugard and Johnson, a private cosmetic and family dentistry practice in Germantown, and a volunteer dental provider at Church Health Center, a local nonprofit that provides healthcare to working uninsured, underserved Memphians. She also donates her time and expertise to the Bellevue Bus mobile dental clinic, providing basic dental care to those in need.
Allyn’s commitment to altruism despite her demanding schedule is a testament to her belief that helping others is the true core of any healthcare profession.
“Being in healthcare, helping people becomes part of your identity and daily duties,” she says. “That’s what I love about dentistry. No other practice makes people immediately feel better. It’s so satisfying being able to instantly bring suffering people out of pain and make them smile.”
This sentiment is brought to life through Church Health Center’s Wall of Smiles, a heartwarming collage that showcases before and after images of underserved individuals proudly showing off new smiles made possible by volunteers like Allyn.
Her contributions to her community are not limited to her dental expertise. She also teaches Pilates twice a week at Germantown Athletic Club, bringing mindfulness and movement to an inclusive audience.
“My classes are diverse; we have women who just went through childbirth, people in their sixties and seventies, people who are new to fitness,” she says. “Anyone is welcome. Mat Pilates, which is what I teach, is very accessible; all you need is your mat, and you can practice anywhere.”
Allyn has been doing Pilates since she was 14. She became officially certified through Germantown Athletic Club’s affordable 30-day program in 2019, and credits Pilates with helping her bounce back following foot injuries in 2013 and 2016.
After having surgery on her left foot, Allyn was confined to a boot and was unable to enjoy her usual spin class workout. An active person with a background in ballet and competitive dance, she struggled with the limitations her boot created.
“I gained a lot of weight during my recovery. My clothes weren’t fitting right and I wasn’t happy,” she recalls. It was at this time that she rediscovered her love for Pilates.
“I started going to Cindy’s class at Germantown Athletic Club, and I loved it. Cindy was so funny and such a great teacher,” she says. “I lost 50 pounds thanks to Pilates and walking on the treadmill when I had time.”
Once Cindy retired and her protégée Karen took over, she encouraged Allyn to get certified and become an instructor.
Pilates has also helped Allyn recover from her intense schedule. “As a dentist, I’m on my feet all day and hunched over my patients. I used to have to get massages regularly because my body would constantly ache,” she explains. “Pilates made my body feel so much better. Now, I don’t even need the massages.”
Teaching Pilates is beneficial to Allyn’s mental health as well. She describes Pilates as centered on mindfulness and control, and emphasizes that, unlike other fitness programs, it’s not focused on staring at yourself in the mirror the entire time and comparing your progress to the person next to you.
“When you’re doing Pilates, you’re able to be in your own little bubble,” she explains, noting that “most of the time, you’re either staring at the floor or the ceiling, focused on your own breathing and posture.”
Both Allyn’s professional and fitness journeys are rooted in using her skills and expertise to help others. “When I’m feeling down, I ask myself what I can do to help someone else. That’s what helps me get up and keep moving,” she says. “I get more out of giving my time than, say, taking a hot shower.” While Allyn admits that she definitely has those days where she “wants to pull the covers up over her head,” but for the most part, her form of self-care is taking care of others, be it through dentistry or Pilates.
By Lucy Harrison
Photo by Tindall Stephens