Professor receives prestigious award for health research

Lydia Couture

Professor Melissa Zullo received the Beginning Investigator Award for her research with metabolic syndrome and cardiac rehabilitation.

Zullo, assistant professor of epidemiology, presented her work to the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation at their annual meeting in October, where she received the award. Kent State recently announced her accomplishment.

Researchers submitted their work for review and six were selected to present their findings at the meeting. The AACVPR chose Zullo as the winner of the award.

“It’s nice to be recognized by the organization that is focused on improving cardiovascular care for persons with cardiovascular disease,” Zullo said.

The AACVPR’s mission is to reduce morbidity, mortality and disability from cardiovascular and pulmonary disease, as well as to improve the quality of life for patients, according to their Web site.

Zullo’s research focused on metabolic syndrome, which is a group of risk factors in one person. Patients with metabolic syndrome are at higher risk for certain diseases, according to the American Heart Association. Zullo surveyed all of the cardiac rehabilitation programs in Ohio, asking questions on their practices, the interventions, and their knowledge of the risk factors for the syndrome.

“We wanted to see if they identified the patients first of all, to know that they had metabolic syndrome and are at higher risk for disease,” Zullo said. “And then after we determined whether or not the programs were even identifying them, we looked to see what interventions they had for managing their higher risk.”

She has been working on the project since 2007.

Zullo came to Kent State in Fall 2009 from Case Western Reserve University.

“I chose to come to Kent because it was a great opportunity to be involved in the brand new College of Public Health,” Zullo said. “It’s exciting to get in on the ground floor of a new college. You don’t get that opportunity very often. And it’s exciting to be able to develop the program as we go along.”

Colleague Sonia Alemagno, assistant dean of the College of Public Health, said she is happy about the award and thinks it helps get the word out about the new College of Public Health.

“I think that Kent State should be very proud,” Alemagno said. “It’s not every day that a faculty member, particularly one this early in her career, gets this level of national recognition. So we’re very happy.”

Ken Slenkovich, assistant dean of the College of Public Health, said the award means Zullo’s peers are recognizing her expertise, which sends a positive message about the college.

“I think it demonstrates the high caliber of faculty that have been recruited for the college,” Slenkovich said.

Alemagno was part of the search committee that hired Zullo.

“I think the strongest asset is in her experience and interest in chronic disease and chronic disease prevention,” Alemagno said. “It’s a very critical part of our community-based approach.”

Zullo said the award demonstrates the significance of her research.

“It just shows that people recognize that the work was important,” Zullo said.

Contact news correspondent Lydia Couture at [email protected].