by Joe Bollig
OLATHE — It’s a deceptively simple question: Why did you want to become a doctor?
“That’s the hardest question to answer,” said Dr. Isaac D. Johnston, a new physician with Olathe Health Family Medicine.
There is so much that goes into the “why” he chose to become a healer.
“I just remember shadowing a family doctor when I was a freshman in college, and I felt ‘This is where I need to be,’” said Johnston.
But there’s more to it than just the good example. Johnston loves science, the lifelong learning that goes with keeping up with medical advances, using his interpersonal skills and the variety — the variety of people and patient care in practicing family medicine.
And he likes helping people.
But there are two aspects he especially likes.
“I especially like obstetrics because there’s no other part of medicine that brings life into the world. There’s nothing like it,” he said.
“The other part of medicine I really like is helping people with end-of-life transition,” he continued. “I did some volunteer work in hospice while I was in college and loved it. I learned a lot seeing people go through the dying process.”
In short, he likes everything about being a doctor — except for one thing.
As a pro-life, Catholic physician, he will not prescribe artificial birth control.
“The church says not to,” he said. “That being said, I know that a lot of medications for contraception are also abortifacients, which I’m not at all OK with. [My wife and I] practice natural family planning.”
Johnston, a native of Wichita, graduated from Newman College in Wichita with a bachelor’s degree in biology in 2010. He received his medical degree from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 2014. He spent his residency at Via Christi Family Medicine in Wichita and received his board certification in family medicine from the American Board of Family Medicine.
He and his wife belong to the Church of the Ascension Parish in Overland Park.
Johnston was up front about his pro-life convictions when he interviewed for Olathe Health to become its fourth physician.
And he was delighted to learn that one of the four physicians already on staff — Dr. Patrick R. Herrick — shared his approach to contraceptives.
“When I was interviewing, I knew right away that this was a great fit,” said Johnston. “They all do broad spectrum family medicine, and they do inpatient [hospital] side as well. They’re all very smart and very caring, and people I knew would help me in that transition.”
“But one thing that set this practice apart was meeting Dr. Herrick,” he continued. “I was able to talk with him and see he was able to have as Catholic a practice as you could get . . . and that it worked well. He felt no pressure to change how he practiced and they let him basically do his thing.
“I knew if he was able to practice like that, I would be able to, too. And I’d have a mentor and a physician for my family.”
In fact, he was pleased to discover that there was a strong demand in Olathe for Catholic doctors.
When patients ask him about prescribing birth control, he talks with them in a respectful way, objectively laying out the risks and benefits, as well as why he has decided not to prescribe.
“I try to avoid the phrase, ‘I can’t help you,’” said Johnston. “I let them know right away that I’m a Catholic doctor and I prescribe in a Catholic way.
“We always address the issue, because there are a lot of different reasons why people want to use birth control. It might be as simple as regulating periods.
“I tell them, ‘Here’s the risks of birth control medications,’ and ‘Is it worth the benefit of regulating your periods?’”
He lets them know about benefits, risks and alternatives, and offers information about natural family planning. Sometimes they’re interested in NFP, and sometimes they want to continue using birth control.
“I let them know that I’m not going to judge them,” he said. “[I tell them] I’ll still love you and still treat you as best I can. If you want to use another OB or family medicine provider, that’s up to you.”
In addition to his work at Olathe Health, Johnston is the medical director of the Olathe Pregnancy Clinic, which will open in August.
He will sign off on ultrasounds, ensure the clinic meets accreditation, advise regarding abnormal symptoms and ultrasounds, and make referrals for obstetric care when needed. Herrick will provide occasional assistance at the clinic as well.