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Victoria Anne Johnson MD passed away peacefully at her childhood home on Lake Minnetonka on October 10, 2023 after a prolonged illness. Her family was at her side. She was born on August 5, 1956 in Minneapolis, Minnesota and grew up in Deephaven, Minnesota where she spent many hours on her beloved Lake. Vicki or VJ as she was known to family and colleagues loved talking with friends, knitting, cats, and Hallmark movies.
She went to Minnetonka High School (class of 1974), Saint Olaf College (class of 1978), and the University of Minnesota Medical School (class of 1982). She was an internal medicine intern, resident, and chief medical resident at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, New Hampshire for four years, followed by one year as a clinical fellow in infectious diseases at the University of Colorado Health Science Center in Denver, Colorado. After three years as a research fellow then Instructor in Medicine in virology/infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, she joined the faculty at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where she was appointed as Professor Emeritus of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine and remained until 2022.
She specialized in internal medicine, infectious diseases, and was a virologist. She was a clinician, researcher, and teacher/mentor. She was also the first female UAB Infectious Diseases Division faculty member. Her passion for helping people and virology training led her to focusing on AIDS/HIV. She was a pioneer in the field in the early days when contracting HIV was essentially a death sentence. Her contributions as a research investigator related to human immunodeficiency viral drug development resulted in USA Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for several agents to treat HIV infection and did landmark initial combination studies leading to the current international standard of clinical HIV care employing triple combination antiretroviral agents for therapy of HIV-infected individuals.
Pivotal laboratory research efforts defined the viral dynamics of human immunodeficiency viral replication and pathogenesis. Based upon expertise in assay and protocol development, she played an active role locally, nationally, and internationally in the design and implementation of clinical studies of viral load, antiretroviral resistance, and viral dynamics that defined HIV pathogenesis and predictors of clinical therapeutic response in the HIV clinic.
As an international leader and founding investigator in HIV drug resistance research, she was pivotal in getting HIV drug resistance testing into the clinical arena worldwide. Her virology research laboratory did the first FDA cleared DNA sequence-based testing that led to commercial HIV drug resistance testing. Established clinical international guidelines for HIV drug resistance testing including serving as Chair of the International Antiviral Society-USA HIV Drug Resistance Mutations Group for over one decade with international HIV drug resistance research colleagues.
She is the principal author or co-author on more than 98 peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts, and 12 reviews and book chapters, that have been published in prestigious national and international journals (including Nature, Nature Medicine, AIDS, Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, New England Journal of Medicine, Annals of Internal Medicine, Journal of Infectious Diseases, Clinical Infectious Diseases, and antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy) as well as textbooks.
As infectious disease program director for eight years, she served as career mentor for over 25 infectious disease fellows. As a clinician-educator and role model she has taught and mentored over 750 physicians as well as 100 medical students who have pursued successful careers. She loved mentoring young physicians and got great satisfaction as she watched them blossom as doctors but more so as people. Recurring comments from her colleagues include incredible researcher, caring physician, genuinely human person, and beloved.
Her passion for helping people also drove her love of treating patients in clinic or in hospital both at UAB and at the Birmingham VA Medical Center where she served as a physician. Coming from a military family, both her brother and father served in the Navy, she got great satisfaction when she could help veterans.
Some of the service roles and awards she received include: UAB Faculty Senate Curriculum and Research Committee; Mentor and Role Model, UAB Medical Student Mentor Program; Outstanding Division Teacher, Infectious Diseases; Cobbs-Rutsky Award for Clinical Excellence. She also served on the editorial boards for prestigious scientific journals including: The New England Journal of Medicine; Annals of Internal Medicine; American Journal of Medicine; Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy; Clinical Infectious Diseases; and Journal of Infectious Diseases. Served as a member of the council and or committees for the National Institute of Health, NIAID, FDA leading to approval of new drugs for HIV and hepatitis as designated viral drug expert. NIH/NIAID AIDS Clinical Trials Group Virology Laboratory Committee Chair and Director, Virology Support Laboratory.
Survived by her loving husband of 24 years, Bruce Bodner; mother, Shirley Eastwood Johnson: sister-in-law Jean Bodner Bradshaw (Joe); step-daughter, Jessica Bodner; an uncle, numerous cousins, and wonderful friends. Preceded in death by her father Benton Gerald Johnson and brother Bruce Benton David Johnson.
Memorial service at noon Friday October 27, 2023 at Saint Martin’s by-the-Lake Episcopal Church, 2801 Westwood Road, Minnetonka Beach, MN followed by a reception and celebration of The Life of Victoria Johnson at the Lafayette Club. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations are preferred to the Alice Burton Endowed Biology Fund c/o Saint Olaf College, 1520 Saint Olaf Avenue, Northfield, MN 55057.
Memorial service can be viewed online via Zoom at: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83848314653