November 18, 2018

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Best Foot Forward: Dr. Mark Johnston on Practicing Podiatry

Dr. Mark JohnstonWhen podiatrist Dr. Mark Johnston decided to go into the medical field, he imagined himself in the classroom instead of an operating room. That’s why, after completing his residency at the University of Texas, he decided to work in the collegiate setting. However, after four years at the University of Texas, Dr. Johnston realized there was something missing from his career.

“When I was working at the University, I realized you wear three hats; you teach students, you see patients and you do research,” Dr. Johnston explained. “I really wasn’t interested in doing research and I wanted to spend more time in patient care.”

This was when Dr. Johnston and his family decided it was time to head back to their roots. Originally from Minneapolis, Dr. Johnston was looking to move back to Minnesota and begin a practice with a focus on work-life balance. “We had two small children at the time and we wanted to find a smaller midwestern town to settle into,” he said.

Coincidently, the ACMC-Willmar clinic was looking to expand services in their orthopedic area and podiatry was just the niche they were looking for. “Willmar seemed like an ideal community. Great schools, healthy population, and a good quality of life,” Dr. Johnston remembered. “So I made a cold call and was hired as the first podiatrist at the clinic in 1995.”

As he began shaping his practice and the podiatry department, Dr. Johnston was appreciative of the support he received from the clinic. As the first in his specialty, he had to educate both his colleagues and patients as to what the scope of his podiatry practice was. “Some of the staff had an old-fashioned view of what podiatrists actually do. They thought I just trimmed nails,” Dr. Johnston recalled. “But with my surgical training and work at the university, I had a lot of new services to provide for them.”

These services include both routine care and surgical treatments related to several types of foot and ankle conditions. Some of the most common conditions Dr. Johnston treats include corns and calluses, ingrown toenails, bunions, and hammertoes.

Johnston with patient

However, he believes that he has seen the most success in his community of diabetic patients. This is because of the resources he has within the clinic including the Wound Clinic, Infectious Diseases, and the hospitalists who support his patients. He also credits fellow podiatrist, Dr. Jon Peterson, who he has worked alongside at the clinic for 18 years.

“I think we’ve made an impact as far as preventative care for people with diabetes because of our strong team approach to care,” he said. “This was the reason I wanted to work in a multi-specialty clinic. We work well together and we have great resources for our patients.”

Dr. Johnston has also been collaborating with Vascular Surgeon, Dr. Katie Reigstad, to help patients with more serious circulatory issues. “Our collaborative services have been very successful in helping patients prevent major complications and amputations.”

Overall, Dr. Johnston states that the best part of his job is the relief he can provide for his patients. “Most of the people I see are coming in for pain or discomfort,” he said. “So that is one of the satisfying aspects of podiatry because there is a lot of hands-on things you can do to relieve that pain relatively quickly.”

Johnston performing surgeryIn the coming months, the podiatry department also has exciting new opportunities approaching. In May of 2018, the second generation Carris Health Surgery will open its doors to patients. As one of the service lines provided in the surgery center, podiatry will be able to enhance their same-day surgery experience.  “The facility will provide new levels of comfort and efficiency for our patients,” Dr. Johnston explained. “A modern and updated workspace will give us the best tools to help obtain better patient outcomes.”

Dr. Johnston is also looking forward to expanding his team with podiatrist Dr. Brandon Tucker joining in July of 2018. Dr. Tucker will serve patients in the Marshall clinic and Surgery Center, where outreach has been provided by Dr. Johnston for several years.

As for life in Central Minnesota, Dr. Johnston believes he found the perfect fit for himself and his family. “Raising my family in Willmar, our kids were involved in a lot of school activities and played hockey throughout high school,” he said. “They all got a quality education and experience here in Willmar.”

He also enjoys that he has the ability to spend his free time on the local lakes and on the golf course. “I enjoy water sports, sailing and a lot of other activities on the lake. Unfortunately, they are frozen six months out of the year,” he joked.

For the past 23 years, Dr. Johnston has enjoyed his time as a podiatrist in Willmar and he appreciates what both the community and the clinic have brought to his career and personal life.