Why I Serve: David A. Johnson, MD

Dr. Johnson is a Professor of Medicine and Chief of Gastroenterology at Gastroenterology Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, VA. He also practices at Gastrointestinal and Liver Specialists of Tidewater. He is certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology and serves on ABIM’s Gastroenterology Board Exam Writing Committee.

Why did you want to become a physician?
It always felt right. It seemed like a great combination of science bridged by respect and trust.

What is the best advice someone gave you about being a doctor?
Treat everyone with ultimate respect and courtesy. Even if you are having a bad day, recognize that you might be the high point for the patient who sees you that day.

What’s been the proudest moment of your career?
I am proud of the trust and support afforded to me by my family and peers in my leadership role as former President of the American College of Gastroenterology. 

When you talk about the work you do, what do you like to talk about?
There are a lot of smart doctors out there, and I give a lot of resident and fellowship recommendations.

I believe and like to remind others that those with the greatest enthusiasm, commitment and work ethic will always be the ones who are the best at what they do. Also, I believe my secret of success is faith, love and support of family.

What’s one of the biggest misconceptions about doctors?
There is a misconception that doctors do not care enough.

For each patient, understanding what matters to them is key. It may be a quick personal call on labs or another issue or a note sent or posted on a web portal reminding them that you hope they are feeling better. I believe small things make a big difference.

How would you describe your experience of joining and serving on an ABIM Exam Writing Committee?

When I took my certification boards, I always wondered why the questions were chosen, what the thought process was for the questions and if the questions were really representative of what was needed to define adequate knowledge for our respective specialties. I wanted to be part of this process, to be sure that appropriate insight was provided.

Before I joined the ABIM Gastroenterology Board Exam Committee, I didn’t know that the process of exam question development is incredibly complex. All questions are pretested on an exam before they count as part of a real exam score. Furthermore, there is an ABIM psychometrics expert for each exam that provides the performance results or an evaluation of every pretest question before the exam committee reconsiders each question for inclusion in the actual exam. Clearly, the questions as well as the process for assessing them need to reflect current practice and be fair and balanced.

A lot has changed since I took my certification exam in 1984. There are changing needs of colleagues that impact performance assessment. My goal as an exam committee member is to understand the complexity of test development and psychometrics and to then create appropriate assessments of our peers. I’ve met some of the best colleagues who have the same energy and commitment to make exams reflective of what standards should be for specialty care. As with most things, the best way to understand and make a difference when needed is to get involved.

What are your personal interests?

I am more than just a little bit interested in wine – I enjoy every aspect of wine from analysis, description, collecting and most of all, sharing it with friends.