Woman of the Week: Dr. Melanie Johnson puts Health Museum on national stage as Smithsonian affiliate

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A popular and important stop for student field trips, The Health Museum has endless interactive learning opportunities for kids. But when Dr. Melanie Johnson became president and CEO of the museum two years ago, she saw beyond its basic bone structure to a vision of a new face for the museum.

"We'd like to be the genius space and that's what we are growing, evolving and becoming," said Dr. Johnson.

She said she wants the museum to be a household name and added, "When someone leaves here, we hope they realize that being intelligent is inspirational, is magnificent and it's not something that's reserved for that group of people. It's reserved for all people."

The Alabama native and Auburn grad started her career in education at Houston-area schools. She said she had no idea her studies in international business and French might take her here.

"Absolutely that's not one of the those things you say that I'm going to grow up and be the CEO of The Health Museum."

She wants to take the health and wellness discussion to new places where everyone can see themselves through many exhibits.

"We're pushing the envelope a little bit having those critical conversations about race, the effects of race on health," she said.

Johnson is a wife and mother of two sons, her youngest heading to college this fall to play football.

"I work very hard, there is no question about that. But I do have a pretty solid work-life balance. There is no question about that, but I walk to work and live within the community that I serve," said Dr. Johnson.

Under Johnson's leadership, the museum is gaining national prominence, being recognized as the first Smithsonian affiliate in Houston's museum district.

"What we want to do is bring the most iconic, historical artifacts to The Health Museum so that visitors can appreciate and be informed about those rare jewels that lie in the Smithsonian," said Johnson.

And she doesn't want it to end there.

"It's not so much about looking like a man and acting like a man and not wearing pink. I think it's so wonderful that those who paved the way before us gave us the opportunity to be as feminine as possible but as strong as possible. They are synonymous," said Johnson.

13 things you didn't know about Dr. Melanie Johnson

  1. Where did you grow up?
    I grew up in a small southern historical African American town called Tuskegee, Alabama. It is also the home of Booker T. Washington, Dr. George Washington Carver, the Tuskegee Airman, and the Commodores.

  2. Favorite movie?
    Sabrina is a story about a young woman who travels to Paris for a fashion internship and is transformed into a independent, decisive, and no-nonsense individual.

  3. What was your first job?
    Summer job - Bun Butterer for Hardy's Biscuits in Atlanta, Georgia.

  4. If you were stranded on a deserted island and you could have only one item, what would it be?
    Pink Victoria Secret's robe. Upon graduating from Auburn University, I wanted to purchase this amazing robe. My mother stopped me and said, "You should not buy a robe this expensive until you have a job and steady income." I put off buying that robe until I was gainfully employed. It was a lesson in patience and fiscal responsibility. I purchased the robe and had surplus leftover.

  5. Where is the best place to take a date in Houston?
    Occasional white tablecloth celebration at Epicure Café in River Oaks. It's an exciting night with a flamenco band and dancers, a four-course meal and a prized bottle of wine on your table.

  6. What app do you use the most?
    HOUZZ - home decorations application. Home décor is my favorite pastime.

  7. What food could you eat for the rest of your life?
    Grilled vegetables, asparagus, onions, peppers, zucchini or any Mediterranean dish.

  8. Dream vacation?
    Weeklong Safari in Africa

  9. What would your walk-up song be?
    Alicia Keys - Girl On Fire

  10. Favorite song to sing at the top of your lungs?
    Natasha Bedingfield - Unwritten

  11. What was your worst summer job?
    Bun Butterer

  12. Favorite way to exercise?
    B-Cycle to the Bayou through downtown

  13. Do you speak any other languages?

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