Kent State Epidemiologist Studies Best Practices for Helping Cardiac and Respiratory Patients Heal | Kent State University
Melissa Zullo (left), associate professor of epidemiology in Kent State’s College of Public Health, works with a Ph.D. student.
Melissa Zullo (left), associate professor of epidemiology in Kent State’s College of Public Health, works with a Ph.D. student.

Kent State Epidemiologist Studies Best Practices for Helping Cardiac and Respiratory Patients Heal

Public Health Scholar Is All Heart

Kent State University scholar Melissa Zullo, Ph.D., is all heart, an academic who lives and breathes research, almost literally. Zullo, an associate professor of epidemiology in Kent State’s College of Public Health, has spent a significant portion of her professional and academic career studying the best practices for helping cardiac and respiratory patients heal.

“My research focuses on community-based and clinical quality improvements in chronic respiratory and cardiovascular diseases,” she said. “I use large national databases to examine questions related to management of older adults with limited functional status after hospitalization along the continuum of care.”

Zullo most recently led a study with colleagues at Kent State, Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals to analyze Medicare billing data from 2008-09, which showed that patients with prior diagnoses of clinical depression were four times more likely to enroll in cardiac rehabilitation following a heart attack — a significant departure from conventional wisdom.

“Dr. Melissa Zullo’s recently published research is an important finding for the field of cardiac medicine because there is now evidence from this large national database that it is not a waste of time or resources to refer these patients to this beneficial service,” said Sonia Alemagno, Ph.D., dean of Kent State’s College of Public Health.

The study was published November 2016 in the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention and can be counted among at least 10 such articles on the topic over the past six years on which Zullo was an author. Other areas of focus include international women’s health, particularly obstetrics and gynecology.

Zullo has participated in 23 published studies in these fields since 2008, and she has given more than three dozen presentations on her work over the past decade.

She has received awards from American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation for her research and a Distinguished Professor Award from students in the College of Public Health. Zullo has received funding from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Intuitive Surgical Inc. and Summit County Public Health.

Zullo also strikes an impressive balance between her own scholarly pursuits and guiding the research efforts of Kent State students. She has mentored seven Ph.D. students in epidemiology, psychology and public health, and more than a dozen master’s students in epidemiology, biostatistics, health policy and management, and social and behavioral sciences.

Over the past year, Zullo has developed and is currently directing the Bachelor of Science in Public Health – Clinical Trials Research. She is also at least partially responsible for developing nearly a dozen Kent State epidemiology courses. She has taught 24 courses both online and in the classroom for undergraduates, graduates, Ph.D. candidates and even high school students taking college credits.

Professionally, she sits on the Research Committee and Healthcare Reform Committee of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. At Kent State, she is member of the University Research Council, Professional Standards Committee and Campus Health Advisory Committee.

Zullo earned dual bachelor’s degrees in psychology and sociology and a master’s degree in exercise physiology from Kent State. After obtaining a Master of Public Health from Kent State and NEOMED, she earned her Ph.D. in epidemiology from Case Western Reserve. Zullo spent five years teaching and researching there before she returned to Kent State in 2009. She was awarded tenure last year.

View Melissa Zullo’s faculty profile.

Learn more about Kent State’s College of Public Health.