A Good Sport – A. Holly Johnson, MD’01


Whether they’re treating top professionals or recreational enthusiasts, University of Chicago alumni have helped countless athletes get back to the sport they love. Learn more about what brought them to the Pritzker School of Medicine, how their education shaped their approach and what stand out as the most rewarding moments of their careers.

By Jamie Bartosch

Holly Johnson, MD’01

Location: Boston and New York City

  • Team physician for the NHL’s New York Rangers and the WNBA’s New York Liberty
  • Team physician for the silver medal-winning U.S. women’s hockey team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics
  • One of only a few female orthopaedic surgeons working in professional sports
  • Associate professor of clinical orthopaedics and attending foot and ankle surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York

First, she was a Harvard hockey star

An ice hockey player since age 7, Johnson went on to be captain of the Harvard University women’s hockey team. She earned All-Ivy and Eastern College Athletic Conference accolades while completing a bachelor’s degree in English (which included her pre-med requirements).

A family lineage in orthopaedics

Johnson’s great-grandmother, Emma Loodtz, MD, was one of the country’s first female orthopaedic surgeons and worked at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in the early 1900s. While the family can’t confirm she was the first female, “she was definitely an early pioneer,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s a pioneer, too

In men’s and women’s professional sports today, very few female orthopaedic surgeons are on the sidelines taking care of players — but Johnson is among them. She’s one of just a few female team physicians in the NHL, and one of a small number working for WNBA teams, she said.

“There’s something really special about taking care of female, high-level athletes,” she said. “They don’t get paid the same way the men do, they don’t get the same TV coverage, and, other than a few exceptions, don’t get the fame and accolades they deserve. They’re motivated by competition, their drive to be the best and their love of the game.”

Johnson also proudly helps advance women in orthopaedics as a member of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS). She co-founded the group’s Women’s Leadership Task Force in 2018 with the goal of giving women more opportunities on the podium, on committees and in AOFAS leadership positions. She also serves as a mentor for women in all levels of medicine, from pre-med students to young attendings.

A role model father

Johnson was raised in a small community outside Boston where her father, ortho- paedic surgeon Stanley Leitzes, MD, “took care of everyone in town.” She grew up watching him work and sometimes joined him on his rounds. It wasn’t unusual for someone to come to their house with a laceration and get “sewn up” by her dad on the family’s kitchen table. “He loved his profession and taking care of people,” she said. “His happiness as a doctor was a major influence in my own decision to go into orthopaedic surgery.”

Winning silver at the 2014 Sochi Olympics

Johnson was the team physician for the U.S. women’s national ice hockey team for two years, including 2014, when they won a silver medal at the Sochi Olympics, losing to Canada 5-4 in overtime. “Sochi was exhilarating. It was really an honor and an amazing opportunity to be surrounded by so many incredible athletes,” she said. “It also was a lot of work. For the six months before the Olympics, I was juggling my full-time practice, my husband and three young kids, and traveling all over North America. I had to be at every practice and game, so sometimes I’d have to leave for Calgary for a week, or somewhere else. For the Olympics, I was in Russia for a month.”

Read the full story on Medicine on the Midway.

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