The Catholic Medical Association has lost a committed member and guild president.
Dr. Rodney Johnson served the CMA as an active member and as president of the Washington State Guild in Seattle. After a 40-day hospitalization, he passed away on January 13 following complications from COVID-19.
Dr. Johnson recently retired from the clinical practice of neurology and then devoted himself to the Washington Guild, assuming the presidency in November 2018. He hoped to increase membership and facilitate Catholic conferences.
Under Dr. Johnson’s leadership, in March of last year, the guild sponsored The Joy of Life Conference focusing on the beauty and importance of God’s plan for gender and sexuality, in addition to highlighting the necessity for marriage outreach.
His academic credentials were impressive, including a BA in chemistry (magna cum laude) from Temple University, a PhD in biochemistry from Harvard University, and an MD from Pennsylvania State University after which he completed his residency in neurology at the University of Washington in Seattle. He was an accomplished physician and scientist who was deeply loved by his patients and his colleagues.
That fact touched guild member Dr. Deborah Rodriguez.
“It was inspiring to hear how much he was loved by his former clinic staff and patients,” she said.
He was also generous with his time as witnessed by another guild member, Dr. Michelle Yi. At Dr. Yi’s request, he immediately came to the bedside of a dying diocesan priest. She recalled, “When Father was critically ill in the hospital, I reached out to Rodney and he most willingly came to help.” Dr. Johnson was also called on by his pastor and fellow parishioners to help navigate the complexity of end-of-life issues.
He had a deep and abiding faith in Our Lord and His Holy Catholic Church. His faith formed every aspect of his life. He joined the CMA in order to learn more about his faith and to incorporate it more fully into his care for patients and interactions with colleagues.
A pro-life warrior, Dr. Johnson spent hours in prayer for the unborn during the 40 Days for Life campaigns. He routinely participated in the March for Life both in Olympia, Washington and Washington D.C.
His parish pastor and Guild Chaplain Fr. Todd Strange shared several thoughts about Dr. Johnson.
“He saw beauty and meaning in the church…and in his call to being an authentic Christian. Witness like that has a strong impact on me, as a priest. It strengthens me in my faith and in my priesthood,” he said. “Rodney asked me to serve as chaplain…I did it because it was Rodney asking…I later came to truly appreciate having been asked.”
Fr. Strange attended the Nashville conference with Dr. Johnson and concluded, “Rod definitely saw healing as more than merely a material-physical notion. He understood, well, the interplay between body and soul…he helped me see that better too.”
It was at the Nashville conference that he was enrolled in the Brown Scapular Confraternity. Dr. Johnson was wearing his scapular when he passed away.
Dr. Johnson is survived by his wife, Maggie, and their two adult children, Matthew and Alexandra. In the words of Maggie, “His greatest gift to his wife and children was his role as spiritual leader of the family.”
He was also a gift to his patients, colleagues, and the Catholic Medical Association. He will be missed but not forgotten. We pray for the repose of his soul.
Dr. Steven Pace is the past president of the Washington State Guild.