We're unable to sign you in at this time. Please try again in a few minutes.
We were able to sign you in, but your subscription(s) could not be found. Please try again in a few minutes.
There may be a problem with your account. Please contact the AMA Service Center to resolve this issue.
Contact the AMA Service Center:
Telephone: 1 (800) 262-2350 or 1 (312) 670-7827  *   Email: subscriptions@jamanetwork.com
Error Message ......
Obituary |

Douglas H. Johnson, MD (1951-2007) FREE

Michael P. Fautsch, PhD
Arch Ophthalmol. 2008;126(1):148. doi:10.1001/archophthalmol.2007.7.
Text Size: A A A
Published online

Douglas H. Johnson, MD, physician and scientist, died July 26, 2007, following a short battle with liver cancer. He was 56 years old. Dr Johnson was a professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. In 2005, he was awarded the William and Betty MacMillan Professorship in Ophthalmology at the Mayo Clinic in recognition of his many scientific and teaching contributions. He served on the editorial boards for the Archives (1994-2005) and Experimental Eye Research (2004-2006). Since 1998, he served as the chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee for the American Health Assistance Foundation glaucoma section. Recently, the American Health Assistance Foundation established the Dr Douglas H. Johnson Award for Glaucoma Research. At the time of his death, he was also a member of the National Advisory Eye Council.

Place holder to copy figure label and caption

Douglas H. Johnson, MD

Graphic Jump Location

Dr Johnson was born April 17, 1951. He received his bachelor of arts degree in biology from St Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota, in 1973 and his doctor of medicine degree from Mayo Medical School, Rochester, in 1977. He completed his medical internship and residency in ophthalmology at the Mayo Clinic before heading to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he did his glaucoma fellowship at Harvard University. In 1983, Dr Johnson returned to the Mayo Clinic as a consultant in the Department of Ophthalmology, where he became full professor in 1998.

Dr Johnson fulfilled numerous challenging roles during his life: surgeon, scientist, teacher, and father. He was fascinated by the complex biology behind ocular physiology, focusing his scientific career on understanding the anatomical and biochemical factors that control aqueous humor drainage through the trabecular meshwork in the normal eye and the pathophysiologic changes within the trabecular meshwork in the glaucomatous eye. Dr Johnson realized early on that to study aqueous humor flow through the trabecular meshwork, an appropriate model was necessary. In 1987, he published his pioneering work on the ex vivo human trabecular meshwork organ culture model, a model that would enable the study of the trabecular meshwork under constant flow or constant pressure. Twenty years later, this model serves as the only human model to study cellular and molecular changes in the trabecular meshwork that follow infusion of compounds such as pressure-lowering glaucoma medications or growth factors. It has been adopted by 14 laboratories worldwide.

Dr Johnson's passion was to understand the morphological architecture of the eye, particularly the trabecular meshwork. Whether a light micrograph or a transmission or scanning electron micrograph, he believed that the images taught us something about the function of the trabecular meshwork. Throughout his career he described similarities and differences between normal trabecular meshworks and meshworks found in primary open-angle glaucoma, pseudoexfoliation glaucoma, and pigmentary and steroid-induced glaucoma. He, along with Elke Lutjen-Drecoll, MD, of Germany, showed that the thickened tendons and sheaths within the trabecular meshwork that are hallmark ultrastructural changes in glaucoma do not cause the elevation of intraocular pressure but represent a marker of an underlying pathological process. His most recent pursuit was to describe the ultrastructural changes that follow nonpenetrating laser trabeculoplasty, where regions between laser scars appear “foamy or expanded.” It was Dr Johnson's belief that these expanded regions were areas of extracellular remodeling that helped improve fluid flow through the trabecular meshwork. He recently found similar regions located under collector channels in normal eyes, suggesting to him that the expanded juxtacanalicular regions may be the main trabecular meshwork flow areas. At the time of his death, he was characterizing these expanded juxtacanalicular regions in glaucomatous eyes, where he believed he would find pathophysiologic differences between normal and glaucomatous trabecular meshworks.

His scientific approaches drew on his deep expertise as a leading glaucoma surgeon. He was curious and wanted to know the answers to questions that mystified him in his clinical practice. He spearheaded population-based studies that addressed questions ranging from the incidence of glaucoma, the probability of blindness from open-angle glaucoma, and the probability of conversion from pigment dispersion syndrome to pigmentary glaucoma. He wanted the knowledge to best inform and treat his patients. He looked to improve his surgical skills and often tried new technologies, such as trabecular stents, to see what impact they had on fluid flow as well as the histological appearance of the trabecular meshwork.

It seemed to those who worked with him that Dr Johnson understood what is most important about doing scientific research. He understood that to be successful one must keep an open mind, ask hypothesis-driven questions, and explain the results in clear, concise language that does not exaggerate the significance of the result. To enforce this, he built a research program that used a multidiscipline approach to study glaucoma. He innovatively used a range of skills from molecular biology, biochemistry, cell biology, gene transfer, and the clinic to investigate this important disease. He was rewarded for his efforts by having continuous funding from the National Eye Institute for 20 years.

Dr Johnson was an innovator, teacher, mentor, and friend. He was a man of great integrity and insightfulness and an inspiration to all of those he taught and with whom he collaborated. The field of ophthalmology has lost an outstanding physician and scientist, but more importantly, the world has lost a great person. He will be missed.


Correspondence: Dr Fautsch, Department of Ophthalmology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905 (fautsch@mayo.edu).


Place holder to copy figure label and caption

Douglas H. Johnson, MD

Graphic Jump Location




Also Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
Please click the checkbox indicating that you have read the full article in order to submit your answers.
Your answers have been saved for later.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.


Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

0 Citations

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.