Once Dr. Sherry Johnson sets her mind to something it’s pretty much a done deal.
“My husband says I have mastered the art of having ‘single-minded focus,’” the 2012 DVM graduate of Iowa State University says. “set my goal and I stick to it. I focus solely on that.”
Johnson says she has been goal-oriented and task-driven all her life. Especially when it comes to horses and their orthopedic rehabilitation.
“I’ve always been a horse person,” she said. “I grew up with them. It’s passion and I’m fortunate enough to have made my passion into my professional career of being a clinician-scientist hybrid that practices and researches new rehabilitative strategies to help both horses and humans recover from injury”
From her first day in vet school, Johnson knew what type of veterinarian she wanted to be.
“My goal was to rehab horses at the highest level possible,” she said. “I have never wavered from that. I streamlined my experiences with the goal to make the very best connections I could with people at the very highest levels in this field.
“I wanted to develop the best academic and private-practice pedigree possible for myself.”
That plan of action has paid off. After graduating from the College of Veterinary Medicine, Johnson first completed an equine internship at Equine Medical Center of Ocala in Florida. She went on to complete an equine diagnostic imaging fellowship at Colorado State University, then transitioned into that school’s Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation residency program and is currently working on a PhD at CSU.
Johnson is putting her training to use as the partner and co-founder of two businesses – Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (ESMR), the only veterinary specialist-owned and operated rehabilitation center in the state of Texas, and Equine CORE, Inc., the nation’s first equine-specific, specialist-owned and operated tele-rehabilitation service.
In the research setting, she is working to develop and validate rehabilitative strategies being utilized in human physical therapy for novel use in horses, specifically that of blood flow restriction training. This translational mission has put her in collaboration with leading human physical therapists and orthopedic surgeons to investigate new approaches to promote healing.
“This has always been the ultimate goal,” she said. “I love working with horses, particularly Western performance horses at the pinnacle of their athletic career. Rehab is a growing field and a wide-open profession.
“We are able to collaborate with human experts and advance the field of rehabilitation for both species.”
Johnson is not only passionate about and focused on equine rehab but she has a talent for it as well. Dr. David Frisbie, professor of clinical sciences at Colorado State University, says Johnson is the best resident he has encountered in his 25 years, writing, “her research could have significant impact on both equine and human rehabilitation approaches to tendon healing.”
“My talent is that I am able to help horses recover and hopefully return to their athletic careers,” Johnson said. “If I can help one horses’ recovery or indirectly a human’s through our translational research, then that is why I get out of bed in the morning.
“I want to redefine equine sports medicine and advance the entire profession.”
She’s well on her way to doing just that. Her expertise and knowledge in equine sports medicine has led to her and her practice serving as the official show veterinarians at major Quarter Horse events including American Quarter Horse Association World Shows.
Johnson has been named the recipient of this year’s Iowa State University’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award, one of many honors she has received.
She is also the recipient of the American Quarter Horse Foundation Young Investigator Award, the Storm Cat Career Development Award from the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ President’s Award. Quite a haul for recent graduate.
“I’m passionate about what I do,” Johnson says. “That’s not something everyone gets to say.”