As an award-winning journalist, Melinda Voss has earned national recognition for her work in health care journalism. In 1997, Melinda co-founded the Association of Health Care Journalists, Inc., an organization with more than 750 members who cover health and health care in multiple countries. She also served as the executive director from 1999 to 2004. Additionally, from 2002 to 2004, Melinda helped develop and coordinate the Health Journalism Master’s Program at the University of Minnesota, a yearlong program for public health professionals learning about journalism or, conversely, journalists learning about public health.
Raised in Des Moines, Iowa, Melinda developed an interest in journalism after her English teacher taught a section on newspapers. From that point on, she focused on her goal of becoming a journalist. In 1973, Melinda was simultaneously working on her last semester for her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism at Drake University and reporting as a staff writer for The Des Moines Register. During her time at the newspaper, Melinda developed her passion for writing about health and healthcare after her parent’s own health problems triggered her interest in the topic. By 1995, she was the beat reporter for health issues. Melinda said part of the reason why she loved the beat was because not only was it “an absorbing interest” but she also had lots of freedom with it. “There [was] no pack of journalists covering it,” Melinda said. “I could go after anything I wanted, and I would be all alone on it. So it was fun.”
However, it was the JAWS camps that Melinda attended that became home. She said that after attending her first camp, the third JAWS camp in Estes Park, Colorado, she felt “immediately embraced and acknowledged and valued.” According to Melinda, JAWS has given her a support network, friendships, knowledge and skills training.
“Somebody said the quality of your life depends on the quality of the questions you ask yourself,” Melinda said. “One thing I can say about JAWS is that JAWS has always helped me ask myself a lot of really high-quality questions about myself, my life, my job, how I do my job. That’s part of its value.”
This oral history interview with Melinda took place on a cold and snowy afternoon on December 27, 2013 at Melinda’s beautiful home in St. Paul, Minnesota.
( This interview was conducted by Yong Volz )