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About Me

Head shot of Joanne Mason, a white woman with gray hair. She is wearing a green blouse.

Discovering Health Literacy 


The first time I encountered health literacy, I didn’t know that’s what it was.


On a blustery December night in college, a friend asked me to drive him to the emergency room at the local hospital. He had injured his knee while running, and he wanted a doctor to take a look. 


While we were in the waiting room, a woman and her husband rushed in. From what we could gather, English was not their first language. They desperately tried to explain their situation to the impatient triage nurse, but the communication barriers seemed great.


I never found out the outcome. But the experience stayed with me. 

Photo by Dione Morton

Health Writing and Editing 


I often tell people I became a health writer and editor by accident.


I was preparing to become an adult education teacher. I’d spent over 15 years volunteering with adult literacy programs, working with students learning English as an additional language (sometimes referred to as ESL or ESOL). My roles included tutoring, facilitating conversation groups, assessing language skills, and substitute teaching for a nonprofit serving new immigrants. 

In early 2006, however, plans started to change. I moved back to my childhood home to take care of my Mom, who had dementia. Like many caregivers, I had to build a new way of working—something flexible that I could do at home. 

I’d always been a writer, and by this time, I had a couple of Boston Sunday Globe essays under my belt. A former colleague asked if I’d be interested in trying health writing, as his content manager needed a hand. 

Since then, I’ve written on dozens of topics in specialties like the following:

  • Urology

  • Gynecology

  • Oncology

  • Sexual Health

  • Cardiology

  • Dermatology

  • Neurology

  • Pediatrics

  • Nephrology

Education and Professional Development

University of Massachusetts at Boston
MA in Applied Linguistics

Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York
BA in English – specialization in book publishing

Minor in Communications

Poynter ACES Certificate in Editing

University of California at Berkeley Extension – Editing Certificate
American Medical Writers Association – Essential Skills Certificate


Extensive training in the Chicago Manual of Style, AP Style, and AMA Style.


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