Known widely as a pioneer in physical medicine and rehabilitation, Ernest Johnson, MD, is also known as the heart and soul of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department– a department he created in 1963.
During his 55 years at Ohio State and 37 years as department Chair, he has instructed nearly 300 physiatry residents, instilling in them the patient-first philosophy that has characterized his career.
Johnson is considered one of the foremost authorities in the world and the top U.S. authority on electromyography (EMG), a diagnostic tool that measures electrical impulses in muscle. His dedication to his profession, coupled with his contributions to the field, earned him the Frank H. Krusen, MD, Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in 1984.
Many residents can tell stories of his insistence that they learn how to do a wheelie in a wheelchair, in order to really understand what their patients are going through. Johnson made it look easy, earning the moniker “Chief Wheelie.” Johnson still offers certificates of accomplishment to those who can pass his online wheelie tutorial.
At age 88, he shows no signs of slowing down. Says Johnson, “I’m doing what I want to do and I hope that I die on the job with my boots on.”