Melissa Welch’s mother, a nurse, frequently recounted stories about caring for terminally ill patients and the power of healing at a vulnerable point in a person’s life. These stories ignited a desire in Melissa to give back in the same way. At nine years old, Melissa decided to pursue a career in medicine. “It was a certainty that was irrefutable—even then,” she said. Today, Dr. Melissa Welch, MD, MPH, serves as Health Catalyst’s first Chief Medical Officer.
Dr. Welch was selected from hundreds of nominees by a panel of industry, government, and academia leaders as the 2023 Women of Color STEM Career Achievement Award for Healthcare. This distinguished award honors women at or beyond the midpoint of their careers who use their platform, wisdom, and experience to create breakthrough opportunities for their organizations, communities, and other women. This recognition celebrates Dr. Welch’s deep expertise and experience as a clinician and business leader and exemplary contributions as a role model throughout her 35 years of work spanning the private and public healthcare sectors.
“We are grateful to Dr. Welch for innovatively embracing inclusion opportunities, leading with love, respect, and intentionality, and inspiring and supporting Health Catalyst clients and team members with her knowledge, wisdom, experiences, and insights,” said Trudy Sullivan Stoudamire, Health Catalyst Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer. “We’re proud that her excellence is being recognized with the 2023 Women of Color STEM Career Achievement Award for Healthcare.”
Dr. Welch earned her medical degree from Harvard Medical School (HMS). She pursued her Master of Public Health (MPH) at the University of California, Berkeley, and earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Welch’s first job after medical school was at San Francisco’s Family Tree Healthcare Clinic. From there, she advanced through various roles and organizations while balancing life, her children, and family obligations alongside her husband, who is also a physician.
Throughout her career, she has encountered gender and racial discrimination. As a medical student at HMS, Dr. Welch found herself in a class with only 13 other students belonging to under-represented groups; about half of the class were women. Dr. Welch also recalls facing racism when she was a student at HMS seeking housing. Additionally, being a woman in her field came with constant pressure to prove her competence by surpassing expectations regarding her knowledge and performance. She said discrimination also manifested in the form of having to report to men with inferior expertise or proficiency.
She overcame these hardships by talking to other women, seeking understanding, embracing her strengths, and executing results with integrity. Her experiences ultimately compelled her to start a business, Welch Perspectives LLC, providing leadership development for healthcare professionals. She has also offered diversity training as the principal and founder of Perspectives of Differences Diversity Training and Consultation for Health Professionals.
“The pipeline of women who choose to go into the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields must be sustained, mentored, and supported by those of us already in the field,” she said. “Each STEM professional and leader must commit to reaching back and helping those still to come or during their career rise.”
At Health Catalyst, Dr. Welch brings her wealth of experience as a strategic partner to the Growth team and is dedicated to developing new client relationships, supporting clients with complex clinical challenges, and serving as a thought leadership partner.
The Health Catalyst mission to be the catalyst for massive, meaningful, and measurable improvements in healthcare resonated with Dr. Welch. She was particularly inspired by Health Catalyst CEO Dan Burton’s deep commitment to team members’ well-being. She remains a diversity, culture, and inclusion champion, advocating and promoting best practices within the company and client relationships. She draws from first-hand experiences training and working with healthcare providers on cultural competency, diversity, and inclusion.
When asked about her perspective on diversity, culture, and inclusion in healthcare today, Dr. Welch explained, “We still have a long way to go in healthcare to reconcile the societal impact of discrimination on people and how that impacts not only patients but healthcare professionals.” She also mentioned advancements such as introducing new terminology, creating roles to promote diversity, and increasing collaboration in the healthcare sector among individuals from different ethnic and racial backgrounds.
“Health Catalyst has made a conscious effort to recognize the importance of equity and inclusion,” Dr. Welch said. “Awareness is the first step for individuals and organizations to impact and influence change positively.”
Dr. Welch thrives in an environment where she can embrace new opportunities and be her best, utilizing her natural aptitude for math and science. At Health Catalyst, she serves as Diversity Inclusion Council Chair. She also volunteers as an American Heart Association Cor Vitae Society member and on the American Stroke Association’s Go Red for Women Executive Leadership team.