When Mark Johansen, M.D., first began his medical training, he thought he would most likely become an ophthalmologist. But during a spinal cord injury (SCI) elective rotation in medical school at the University of Utah, Dr. Johansen discovered that he was interested in a more holistic approach to treating an entire individual versus just one body system. “SCI medicine isn’t just about the injury – it’s about the whole person. When you put dedicated and expert people around you as a team, it helps in patient recovery and challenges you to be a better physician,” he says.
At Craig, Dr. Johansen serves as the SCI Program Medical Director and supervises one of the hospital's spinal cord injury rehabilitation teams. He joined the CNS Medical Group in July 2001 following a subspecialty fellowship program in neurotrauma rehabilitation at Craig. When asked about his daily schedule, he replied, “I just take care of patients. One by one, I try to make a difference.”
During his tenure, he’s seen a lot of changes in the SCI field. He noted that patients are often arriving at Craig earlier due to challenges with acute care processes and believes catastrophic injury needs to be approached differently. “Patients not only need access to care but they need a patient-centered treatment plan,” he says. “At Craig, we offer a patient/family-centered care model where a consistent care team works together to benefit the patient.”
Dr. Johansen cites the longevity of Craig’s staff as having a significant impact on patient outcomes. “Our staff feel valued internally, which increases opportunity for growth and retention. But most of the staff are here because they view their work as more of a calling and they want to stick with it, especially the techs and nursing staff. They are the foundation of Craig.”
Les Butt, Ph.D., ABPP Rehabilitation Psychologist at Craig, enjoys working with Dr. Johansen because his highly holistic patient-centered approach, compassion, listening ear, and patience are universally evidenced. “What I found central is Dr. Johansen’s receptivity to truly embrace all our rehabilitative disciplines, fully aware that many professional eyes are essential for the highest quality of patient and family care,” Les said.
He approaches patient care from pre-admission to post-discharge. “One of the challenges we encounter is trying to get payers to buy into the need for a continuum of care,” he says. “We know patient outcomes are tied to this concept.”
He also hopes to see a future with more integration of centers of excellence and potentially having satellite locations where patients can access expert healthcare providers even if they do not live near a major center. “We need to make connections for patients to receive more consistent care,” he says.
He’s excited to see how advancements in telehealth and virtual reality are opening doors for patients. “I dream of a cure but, at the same time, I am focused on increasing quality of life for people despite the fact that they may have a disability.” For example, Dr. Johansen had a patient from Central America who was able to incorporate his family into his daily rehabilitation sessions by video chatting. “Technology is continuing to provide better access and options for care,” he says.
Outside of work, Dr. Johansen spends time with his wife and four kids. They love finding new places to explore, cheering on local sports teams and participating in service opportunities with their faith community.
Mark R. Johansen, MD, has served as Medical Director of the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Program at Craig Hospital since 2011 and has been the Chair of the SCI Program Committee since 2005. He was elected President of the CNS Medical Group in 2013 and continues to serve in that role. Learn more about Dr. Johansen here.