Meet the Leaders—Melinda Jordan
This article is part of the CDC Connects “Meet the Leaders” series written by Roshika West.
Melinda Jordan, CPH, began her decades-long public health career as a way to make ends meet. A recent college graduate with a newly purchased car, Jordan simply needed a stable income to make that car note. To that end, she was hired by CDC in 1991 and started working as a disease intervention specialist (DIS) in Lauderhill, FL.
While her short-term goal of paying the bills was met, the longer-term trajectory of her life was changed as Jordan fell in love with public health and helping people stay safe and healthy. She is now the deputy director of the Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH) within the National Center for HIV, Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP).
Jordan’s educational pursuits began at Clark Atlanta University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. She later obtained a Certificate of Public Health from Johns Hopkins University. She hit the ground running after college and joined CDC in the then Division of STD (DSTD), NCHHSTP, as a CDC field assignee. She later served as a DIS in Chicago, IL as well as a special projects coordinator with DSTD, NCHHSTP in Washington, DC.
Jordan transferred to CDC headquarters in Atlanta in 1998 to work as a project officer with Birth Defects, which was previously within the National Center for Environmental Health, now known as the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD). From there, Jordan took on several roles in various divisions including project officer, performance specialist, team lead, and acting deputy branch chief.
In 2006, Jordan became deputy branch chief in the Office of Workforce and Career Development, Public Health Prevention Service (PHPS). By 2010, she began to take on deputy director roles and became the deputy director of Healthy Communities Program in the Division of Adult and Community Health (DACH). She later served as deputy branch chief of the Program Development and Implementation Branch (PDIB) within National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP), starting in 2013. She became a deputy branch chief within NCBDDD in 2015. Before taking on her current role in 2020, Jordan deployed as a part of the Community Intervention and Critical Populations-Task Force (CICP-TF), as a program deputy for the COVID-19 response.
Now, as deputy director of the Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH) in NCHHSTP, Jordan is responsible for management and operations, including budgetary and administrative functions. Speaking of the proudest moments of her career, Jordan notes, “I am most proud of mentoring young public health professionals. To see fellows that I mentored, while I was the PHPS branch chief, become leaders at the agency, in academia, or public health organizations brings me joy. I am happy they are still making an impact in public health.” Jordan reflects on becoming a leader and successful public health professional, noting, “Over the years, I have learned it is always best to be as flexible as possible.”
Jordan’s career would not have been possible without having strong mentors herself. She credits Shannon Griffin-Blake (NCBDDD) with showing her how profoundly our work at CDC impacts people. Through their work together in NCCDPHP Jordan learned she could be sincere and genuine in her care for others and wanting to make the world better for all. That mentoring relationship turned into a great friendship, which is another hallmark of what Jordan loves about CDC—lifelong friendships with respected colleagues.
Outside of her leadership role at CDC, Jordan is the mother of two adult sons and an active member of several organizations. She is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. “Our social justice activities keep me busy,” she says. In addition, Jordan enjoys an active lifestyle, including talking walks in nature to work out. “If I am not at home, I am at the park.” One important thing to know about Melinda Jordan is that her favorite sports team is in Atlanta, “Win or lose, I am a Falcons fan and season ticket holder. Rise-Up!”
Jordan has many unique and fun facts about herself, among them are that she owns over 20 pairs of stylish eyeglasses and loves science fiction and action movies. Her favorite film series includes Star Wars and Marvel films. “Grogu, also known as Baby Yoda, and Groot are my favorite characters,” she says. She notes that her love for these fun characters helped her get through the pandemic. “Throughout the pandemic, a plush Grogu was my work buddy. It is perched next to my computer screen.”
Ultimately, Melinda Jordan’s leadership, over decades of service at CDC, illustrates her passion for CDC’s public health mission. Her motivation is clear: “Simply put, I enjoy my job and the people.” Jordan inspires others as a CDC mentor and trailblazer. Her successful public health career and passion for mentoring upcoming professionals at CDC can be understood by noting a few of her favorite quotes—one by Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world,” and another by Mark Twain: “You’re never wrong to do the right thing.”