Dr. Robert Johnson has been an orthopedic surgeon for the past 34+ years. A few months before his 35th anniversary in the field this June, he’ll be hanging up his white coat. Dr. Johnson retires this spring. Before he leaves Altru Advanced Orthopedics and the profession he’s dedicated his life to since 1981, we asked him a few questions about his career, the things he’ll miss and the things he’s looking forward to in retirement.
Q: What is your specific area of focus in your field?
A: I am a general orthopedic surgeon, so I’ve done a wide variety of procedures and treatments for patients over the years. I’d say that I’ve enjoyed hip and knee replacements the most.
Q: Have you worked for many health systems over the past 34 years?
A: I’ve practiced in Grand Forks for my entire career. I started at the Orthopaedic Clinic in June of 1981 and spent 14 years there. Then, I joined the Grand Forks Clinic, which merged with United Hospital to become Altru Health System and have been here ever since.
Q: In reflecting on your career, what stands out as a highlight?
A: I’d say a personal and professional highlight was when my son, Alan, joined the physician team at Altru. Having him follow in my footsteps to pursue a career in medicine (he is an ENT physician) and join the team at Altru was very special for me.
Q: What will you miss most about your career at Altru after you retire?
A: I’ll miss my patients and my team. It’s somewhat unusual, but I’ve had the same team working with me for most of my career. Liz Brekke, my nurse, has been with me through my entire career. Bill Janzen was with me for 30 years until he retired, then Suzie Benjamin replaced him and has been with me for the past several years. It’s pretty amazing to be able to work with the same great people for so long.
There are many long-time patients that I’ll miss seeing regularly. I have treated them for years as well as their children.
Q: What are you looking forward to in retirement?
A: I have a number of interests. I enjoy working with computers and might take some courses at UND in computer programming. I’d also like to get back into flying, which is something I’ve done before but haven’t had much time for in the past years. And of course, I look forward to more time with family. My grandkids are here in town, and I will be able to spend more time with them.
Q: Flying and computer programming – that’s impressive. Do you have any other hobbies?
A: My wife and I will be restoring our cabin, which combines a few of my hobbies. I enjoy woodworking, as well as electrical and plumbing work. I look forward to using those skills to work on our cabin. I also enjoy being active and spend a lot of time at Choice Health & Fitness. I am a strong supporter of Choice and the impact that it has on our community.
Q: If you find time to travel in retirement, where would you like to go?
A: It would be fun to travel to Norway. My wife and I are both Norwegian and have family there. I’d also like to see Alaska and possibly tour the National Parks.
Q: What message would you like to send to the patients you’ve cared for over the years?
A: I’d like to thank my patients for their trust and confidence in me. It makes my day when patients do well and can return to doing what they like to do.