Volunteer Spotlight

Debra Hunter Johnson on What Makes UT Southwestern the ‘Best of the Best’

New Chair of the President’s Advisory Board shares the one word that drives her passion to give back.

Reciprocity is an idea that holds special meaning for Debra Hunter Johnson. It has been a personal mantra throughout the Detroit native’s career, starting with her first jobs after graduation serving as an attorney with a law firm and later at Chrysler. When she left the Vice President of Human Resources post at American Airlines to start her own firm focused on helping people and businesses become sustainably productive, the Founder and President of Reciprocity Consulting Group put it first on the company’s letterhead.

Debra Hunter Johnson
Debra Hunter Johnson David Gresham​/​UT Southwestern Medical Center

The word also comes to mind when she thinks of UT Southwestern Medical Center, because in her words, she’s “received as much – if not more – out of the relationship as I've put into it.”

The Medical Center made a difference for her and her family, and she continues to give back, volunteering her leadership as Chair of the President's Advisory Board. The group provides UT Southwestern President Daniel K. Podoslky, M.D., and the institution’s leadership with guidance on opportunities and challenges facing the Medical Center.

As the first person of color to lead the organization, Mrs. Johnson recently reflected on what distinguishes the institution and why she gives back.

How has UT Southwestern impacted you and your family?

UT Southwestern was a savior in a time of great medical need, bringing clarity to a very complicated medical situation and designing a treatment plan that brought peace of mind to my family and me. When I relocated my mother to Texas, she was treated by the amazing Geriatric Medicine team, who were kind, empathetic, and proactive in providing care.

What distinguishes this institution as a leader in academic medicine?

UT Southwestern’s leadership is masterful at evolving and growing the institution, pinpointing the areas of greatest need and garnering the support needed to bring the vision to life. One example is the Texas Instruments Biomedical Engineering and Sciences Building, which is currently under construction. The benefit and impact of that facility will be felt for decades to come.

Rendering of the Texas Instruments Biomedical Engineering and Science Building
An architectural rendering of the Texas Instruments Biomedical Engineering and Sciences Building currently under construction on UT Southwestern's East Campus. UT Southwestern Medical Center

What have you learned about UT Southwestern?

I remain in awe of the researchers and medical providers focused on finding cures, managing pain, and treating patients with dignity. We have the best of the best here – in so many fields of study and clinical care – and I regularly take full advantage of the opportunity to hear about new and exciting innovations.

As a donor, why do you continue to give?

“UT Southwestern is laying the groundwork today for access to the health care resources and information we will need tomorrow."

Giving to UT Southwestern allows me to amplify the impact of my gifts. Research and innovation in the life sciences requires vast sums of money, and the ability to pool my donations with others operationalizes my dollars in ways I could not otherwise. For the past years, I have donated to the goodwill trips led by UT Southwestern neurologist Mehari Gebreyohanns, M.D., that have enabled Medical School students to travel to Ethiopia and address neurological issues that are undertreated in the country. Having the ability to impact clinical care and the education of medical students in this way is rewarding and exciting.

What is UT Southwestern's biggest contribution to the community?

UT Southwestern is laying the groundwork today for access to the health care resources and information we will need tomorrow. Its greatest contribution to the community is providing us with the peace of mind and confidence to know that it will be ably prepared to cover tomorrow’s health care needs.

  • Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration, and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.