VOLUME 23 #2

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The UD Legacy: Michele Hackley Johnson, AS75

Michele Johnson
Harold Shapiro

ALUMNI & FRIENDS | The Hackley legacy is an important part of the UD story. Michele Hackley Johnson came to UD to study chemistry in the early 1970s and “got interested in forensics before forensics was cool.”

Intrigued by the idea of unraveling mysteries, she earned her bachelor’s degree in three years and went on to Temple University School of Medicine, where she found diagnostic radiology.

Today, Johnson is professor of diagnostic radiology, neurosurgery and surgery at Yale University School of Medicine, where her current titles also include associate professor of surgery in otolaryngology and director of interventional neuroradiology. A recent news article compared her to a detective, working tenaciously on every case to get the right diagnosis.

And she has been a trailblazer; with her promotion to full professor in 2014, she became the first African-American woman to hold that rank at Yale’s medical school. It’s a noteworthy accolade, Johnson says, but not nearly as important as the sense of fulfillment she gets from a job she loves: “Showing students how to work together for the benefit of their patients—there’s nothing better than that.”

Johnson isn’t the only trailblazer in her family. Both of her parents were chemists, and her father became the first African-American to earn a PhD at UD, receiving his doctorate in chemistry in 1957.

“When my dad passed, my mother and my siblings and I really wanted to honor him.” In his memory, they created the Brennie E. Hackley Jr. Award for Excellence in Research, given annually since 2009 to a UD graduate student in chemistry.

This spring, her family marked its third generation of UD alumni, when Johnson’s son, Brandon, graduated with a master’s degree in public administration.

Article by Ann Manser, AS73

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