Dr. Johnson's Medical Career StoryJun 6, 2019
Dr. Kirk Johnson, orthopedic surgeon, Hilton Head Hospital
After completing medical school, Dr. Kirk Johnson spent two years under the tutelage of his father, which proved to be instrumental in his future endeavors.
“That time was more valuable than any academic training I’d ever had,” he says.
Always guided by his father’s example, Dr. Johnson practiced for 35 years at the University of Massachusetts before moving to Hilton Head Island in 2012.
“I knew I wanted to continue my career,” he says. “There was an opportunity here to make a difference, and I was amazed to find that the people here were going to metropolitan areas for their hip and knee replacements."
Dr. Johnson counts himself lucky to have a second act in his career. At Hilton Head Hospital, his determination is matched by the support and resources available in his new professional surroundings.
“For a community hospital, we are competitive in today’s environment,” he says. “It’s really all about creating expectations. I’ve seen Hilton Head grow from a quality point of view. The beauty of this hospital is that we continue to push the envelope and make improvements.”
Much has changed during Dr. Johnson’s career, thanks in part to surgical innovations and new technologies that are more likely to create better results.
“When I started doing hip replacements in the ‘80s, there was a limited array of options for the population,” he says. “Now we have more than 2,000 choices so that we can match the implant with the patient.”
Now that the long-term durability of hip replacements has improved, Dr. Johnson is able to perform successful procedures for people of all ages. In one case, a 16-year-old patient with a rare congenital disease was unable to walk and required a double hip replacement. “She had to be homeschooled and miss out on activities with friends,” Dr. Johnson remembers. “We did both of her hips at the same time. She’s done beautifully, gone onto college and done many creative things. Things have changed a lot. We want people to be active and stay active.”
With the foundation provided by Hilton Head Hospital, Dr. Johnson has access to a whole host of amenities that help further define the patient’s specific needs.
"Every exam room has a flat-screen monitor,” he says. “As a patient you’re going to become very good at reading your own X-rays.”
Dr. Johnson offers a personal touch by leading patients through each follow-up examination, making it easy to produce a continuity of care that’s so rare in other hospitals.
“It may be very old-fashioned, but I like seeing the patients and having that communication,” he says. “It gives me a better sense of what’s working and what’s not. I’ve found that the outcomes are better.”