Faculty and Staff

Heather Voorhees

Heather Voorhees

Assistant Professor

Home Department: Communication Studies
Office: LA 356
Email: heather.voorhees@umt.edu
Office Hours:

You can find me virtually, via Zoom, throughout Spring 2021. Details are on my class Moodle pages. 

Current Position

Assistant Professor, Communication Studies
Interpersonal/Health Communication


  • Introduction to Interpersonal Communication (COMX 115)
  • Health Communication (COMX 480)
  • Health & Family (COMX 491)
  • Health Misinformation in the 21st Century (COMX491) - Summer 2021

Personal Summary

After earning my bachelor's degree in Mass Communication (print journalism) from Minnesota State University Moorhead, I enjoyed a career as a local newspaper reporter, photographer and editor. Then, for more than seven years, I worked on the internal communication team for Fairview Health Services, the largest healthcare system in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. I earned my master's degree in Strategic Communication from the University of Minnesota Twin-Cities, then spent a year as an internal communication manager for Technology and Operating Systems at the U.S. Bank corporate office. In 2019,I earned my Ph.D. in Communication Studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, then was a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Health Communication at the University of Texas at Austin. 


  • B.A., Print Journalism; Minnesota State University, Moorhead
  • M.A., Strategic Communication; University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
  • Ph.D., Communication Studies; University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Post-doctoral Fellowship, Center for Health Communication; University of Texas at Austin

Research Interests

  • chronic illness
  • illness identity
  • social support during chronic illness
  • patient-provider communication
  • mental health communication


Co-Investigator, Disclosures of Mental Illnes in Romantic Partnerships (July 2020-current). A two-phase, mixed-methods study exploring which factors of a disclosure of mental illness within a romantic partnership lead to specific relational and well-being outcomes. 

Lead Researcher, Memorable Messages of Support During the Infertilty Experience (June 2019-current). Analysis of semi-structured interview data collected by a larger research team in fall 2016. Currently analyzing transcript data using grounded theory principles, focusing on memorable messages of support received from family, friends, and others during the infertility journey.

Lead Researcher, Chronic Pain Illness Identity (August 2018-current). A two-phase qualitative study about the interpersonal communication challenges of those facing chronic pain. Focus group completed September 2018 and in-depth interviews completed September 2019; currently analyzing qualitative data using grounded theory principles.


Field of Study

Interpersonal health communication; chronic illness; illness identity; social support during chronic illness; illness disclosure


Voorhees, H.L., Koenig Kellas, J., Palmer-Wackerly, A. L., Gunning, J., Marsh, J., & Baker, J. (2020). Memorable Messages of Support During the Infertility Experience [Paper presentation]. To be presented to the Health Communication Division of the International Communication Association  at its 2021 Conference, Denver, CO, United States.  

Palmer-Wackerly, A. L. & Voorhees, H. L. (2020). Illness identity Within the Family – And Beyond. In J. Soliz and C. W. Colaner (Eds). Navigating Relationships in the Modern Family: Communication, Identity, and Difference. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Palmer-Wackerly, A. L., Voorhees, H. L., Koenig Kellas, J., Marsh, J. S., Baker, J. T., Housh, B. C., Luc, M.-L. T., & Hall, R. D. (submitted May 2020). Navigating the infertility journey: How patients and partners negotiate communication in treatment decision-making. Under review at the Journal of Health Communication.

Voorhees, H. L., & Howell Smith, M. C. (2019). Qualitative and quantitative method integration in diabetes communication research: Applications and contributions. Qualitative Health Research. doi: 10.1177/1049732319868985

Palmer-Wackerly, A. L., Voorhees, H., D’Souza, S., & Weeks, E. (2019). Infertility patient-provider communication and (dis)continuity of care: An exploration of illness identity transitions. Patient Education and Counseling, 102, 804-809. doi:10.1016/j.pec.2018.12.003


  • Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award – University of Nebraska-Lincoln Communication Studies Department (2019)

Teaching Experience

  • Assistant Director, COMM 286: Business and Professional Communication. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE. (August 2017-May 2019)
  • Graduate Teaching and Research Assistant, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE (August 2016-May 2019)

Professional Experience

  • Post Doctoral Fellow, Center for Health Communication, University of Texas at Austin (August 2019-August 2020)
  • Corporate Communications Manager, U.S. Bank, Minneapolis Minn.  (April 2015-July 2016)         
  • Internal Communications Consultant, Fairview Health Services, Minneapolis, Minn.  (October 2008-April 2015)
  • Community Editor, American Community Newspapers, Eden Prairie, Minn.  (May 2006-October 2008)


  • International Communication Association (member since 2021)
  • Society for Health Communication (member since 2020)
  • National Communication Association (member since 2016)