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Who's Who: Meshell Johnson, MD

  • Your full title as you’d like it to appear.

Meshell Johnson, MD
Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine
San Francisco VA Health Care System
Professor of Medicine
University of California, San Francisco


  • Three statements about you – two true, one false.  (We tease each new Who’s Who with statements about each featured person – two of which are true, one of which is false, all to be revealed in the last answer.)

I have worked at 35 VA hospitals all over the country.
I played drums for an 80’s cover band.
My sisters and I were all born in a city that beings with the letter S, but on different continents.

(Seoul, SF, Stuttgart).


  • Give us your ‘elevator pitch’ biography.

I'm a professor of medicine at UCSF, and my clinical home is the SFVAHCS, where I attend mostly in the ICU, teaching and leading multidisciplinary teams in the care of our critically ill veterans. I have a lab that studies the alveolar epithelium in lung injury, focusing on alveolar type I cells.  I am also the Director of Faculty Diversity for the Department of Medicine, a member of the UCSF Latinx Center of Excellence, and a Faculty Equity Advisor for the School of Medicine, positions which reflect my passion for and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion at UCSF and beyond.


  • What would you tell yourself as an Early Career Professional?

SO many things! I would tell myself to be more proactive in cultivating a support team - not just academic mentors, but also people that can help you support your career in other ways, such as people in the grant office who can help you through that process, or people who can show you the best way to tag your mice, or the person who runs core facilities so you know what machines have downtime and when. Another great person to have on your team is your division manager, who is your key to efficient administration. And definitely meet with your department chair at least once a year!

There’s so much to get done and as a mentor for junior faculty and fellows, it’s really important to have that team of people who can work with you and help you move things forward. Having people to help with the heavy lifting is something I’ve really come to appreciate as I’ve gotten older.


  • If you weren’t in medicine, and were in a different industry altogether, what would you be?

I would be a sportscaster for ESPN. I was never an athlete, but both my sisters and my parents were athletic, and as a family growing up, we were into sports. It looks exciting and fun, and sports incorporates great elements of kinship, teamwork, and family.


  • What is your favorite way to spend a day off?

My favorite way to spend a day off would be by catching up with good friends over a meal, or a hike, or a walk downtown through fun stores.


  • What areas of medicine are you most excited to see develop?

CRISPR gene editing and AI. I see them as being on total opposite ends of the spectrum of innovation, but each holds huge potential for good as well as a lot of unknowns. It will be very exciting to see how these areas unfold.


  • What is one advancement in your field you’d like to see in your career?

Therapy for ARDS beyond low tidal volume ventilation, conservative fluid management, and supportive care to something more definitive and concrete to help ARDS patients. It’s a part of my lung injury research, and something I hope to implement as an attending in the ICU.


  • Ok. Which statement did you make up?

I have not worked at 35 VAs – just two – San Francisco and Seattle!