Published on December 19, 2014

Daniel B. Johnson M.D. Stroke Program
dedicated in honor of retiring neurologist

Daniel B. Johnson

Dr. Daniel B. Johnson was the only neurologist in the Iowa Quad Cities when he arrived 31 years ago at what is today Genesis Medical Center, Davenport. He was on-call for nine months straight, slept little, and had 1,000 patients by the end of that first year.

When it came to neurological care, the community suffered from somewhat of a drought.

Like the master gardener he is, Dr. Johnson planted the seeds for quality neuroscience care. He helped the neuroscience program grow with the establishment of Neurology Consultants, P.C. He nurtured and led improvements in neurological care; and, helped cultivate the program and see it blossom into what it is today.

The Genesis Neuroscience Institute was announced Oct. 1, along with a partnership between Genesis and University of Iowa Health Care that will expand neurology and neurosurgery services at Genesis.

Along the way, it was Dr. Johnson’s enduring leadership in stroke care that distinguished his career. With his retirement this month, his medical staff colleagues wanted to be sure his contributions would always be remembered.

On Dec. 12, the Daniel B. Johnson M.D. Stroke Program was dedicated in his name. The honor, initiated by the Genesis Medical Center, Davenport Medical Executive Committee, was approved by the Genesis Health System Board of Directors. A plaque will be placed at the Neuroscience Unit on the West Campus, where he invested three decades of compassion and care to stroke patients and their families.

“We hope this recognition is extra special, Dr. Johnson, because it originated from your medical staff colleagues who have long appreciated and admired your meaningful contributions,” said Dr. Nidal Harb, Interim Chief Medical Officer of Genesis Health System, at the recognition. “Our Genesis Health System Board of Directors also agreed.”

Dr. Johnson, who was drawn to neurology by a lifelong fascination with the brain, insisted he is not worthy. “It’s a big honor, and one I never expected. I just went to work every day.”

A dedicated physician

Daniel B. Johnson Dedication

Dr. Daniel B. Johnson of Neurology Consultants, P.C.,
stands with the certificate of appreciation he received
from the Genesis Medical Center, Davenport Medical
Executive Committee. He is joined by Christopher
Crome, M.D., (left) Medical Staff President of
Genesis Medical Center, Davenport, and
Nidal Harb, M.D., (right) Interim Chief Medical
Officer, Genesis Health System.

Straight from his residency at Northwestern University, Dr. Johnson came to Davenport in January 1984 and found a community sorely lacking in neurological care. After nine busy months on his own, he encouraged fellow Northwestern colleague and neurologist Stephen Rasmus, M.D. of Dubuque to come join him.

The two established Neurology Consultants, P.C. Today, the practice has four neurologists and two nurse practitioners on the Genesis, West Central Park campus in Davenport.

“Dr. Johnson has been well-recognized as one of the most brilliant physicians in the community,” said Rodney Short, M.D., President of Neurology Consultants, P.C. “He has a huge base of patients who are really going to miss his compassionate care.

“As a longtime medical director of the stroke program, he laid the groundwork for everything we have going on in stroke care at Genesis right now. He introduced quality initiatives; helped institute the Stroke Alert process; worked with nurses on the American Heart Association’s ‘Get with the Guidelines’ program; and, helped Genesis earn national designation as a Joint Commission-certified Primary Stroke Center.”

Today, Genesis stroke patients benefit from a spectrum of stroke care that includes stroke alerts at its hospital campuses, a dedicated Neuroscience Unit, expanded neurosurgery coverage, the region’s only outpatient Stroke Prevention and Recovery Center and accredited brain injury rehabilitation programs, said Jordan Voigt, Administrator of Genesis Medical Center, Davenport.

“Dr. Johnson’s leadership and the legacy of care provided by Neurology Consultants, P.C., are a major reason neuroscience care at Genesis has been named a high-performing specialty by U.S. News and World Report,” said  Voigt. “It’s an honor we’ve received more than once.

“Over the years, this practice has also provided much-needed, quality neurological care to our community while the nation has continued to struggle with a serious shortage of neurological care.”

Voigt added, “It’s very fitting that a plaque designating the Daniel B. Johnson Stroke Program will have permanent residence on the Neuroscience Unit where he provided such wonderful care.”

Advances in stroke care

When Dr. Johnson began his career, little could be done to alter the course of an acute stroke but treat patients’ symptoms and then rehabilitate them from the stroke’s often devastating effects.

“About 15 years ago, the clot-busting drug t-PA became available and revolutionized the way we approached stroke care,” said Dr. Johnson, a native of Sterling, Ill.

He recalled the excitement of being part of the multi-disciplinary team at Genesis that implemented protocols for this new intravenous therapy. In most cases, t-PA must be administered within three hours after the onset of stroke symptoms, so hospital departments must respond in a rapid and coordinated fashion before determining a patient is a candidate for t-PA. The goal: to administer t-PA within an hour or less of the patient’s arrival.

“It was fun to work with a large team, with everyone pulling in the same direction to bring the best outcomes for our stroke patients. We want to administer t-PA within an hour of a stroke patient’s arrival to the hospital, but we’re always working to do this as quickly as possible.”

In addition to t-PA, Dr. Johnson has seen other advances in neurological care.

“When I started, there was really no treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS),” he said. “Today, we have multiple medications for MS or disease-modifying therapies, some of which are highly effective. There was really no medication to help dementia symptoms like there is today, although we are still in need of one to affect the underlying disease.”

He added, “We have many tools to treat epilepsy now. For years we’ve been doing deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s disease, tremors and movement disorders. Botox is being used to help movement disorders and migraines.”

Colleagues say it was Dr. Johnson’s intelligence, dedication, compassion and willingness to teach others that helped foster the Genesis Neuroscience Program. Nurses would remember his middle initial “B” with the word “brain.”

“He has an encyclopedic mind. Before there was Google, I had Dan,”
Dr. Rasmus recalled. “He also had a mantra for the neurology program, and it was this: ”How could you not know that?”

Dr. Johnson’s mantra would often become the starting point for many quality improvement initiatives, led by him. Thanks to this advocacy for quality care, Genesis today boasts 19 board-certified technologists, a nationally recognized Neuroscience Unit, and a Primary Stroke Center.  “I don’t know if all this would have happened without Dan’s high standards and expectations,” Dr. Rasmus said.

Shannin Budde, RN, neuroscience nurse and stroke coordinator, has worked with Dr. Johnson on the floor for 16 years. “He’s so smart I was intimidated by him at first. But I grew to appreciate the way he taught in a non-judgmental way and educated the nurses and helped us to grow. He is very compassionate to his patients and their families.”

After years of lovingly tending the neuroscience program, the greatest reward has been his patients, Dr. Johnson concluded.  “There are so many patients who I’ve been seeing since they were teenagers and now they‘re middle aged. It will be hardest to say goodbye to them.”

- By Linda Barlow, Genesis

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  • Ongoing
    The Genesis Stroke Support Group brings together stroke survivors and their families in an atmosphere of caring and sharing to assist recovery.