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Ohio State’s Melnyk Calls Election to Institute of Medicine ‘Pinnacle’ of Her Career

Nursing dean, chief wellness officer is 1 of 70 new members of prestigious organization

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State University’s first chief wellness officer has been elected to the Institute of Medicine, considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine.

Bernadette Melnyk, also dean of the College of Nursing and associate vice president for health promotion, is part of the class of 70 new members and 10 foreign associates elected to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) this year.

The IOM, one of the National Academies, recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.

Melnyk, also a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry in the College of Medicine, is an internationally recognized expert in evidence-based practice, intervention research and child and adolescent mental health.

For practitioners and academics who have devoted their professional lives to health and health care, election to the IOM is “the pinnacle of your career,” Melnyk said.

Bernadette Melnyk Bernadette Melnyk

She fits both of those descriptions. Melnyk earned a bachelor’s in nursing from West Virginia University and an MS with a specialization in nursing care of children and pediatric nurse practitioner from the University of Pittsburgh. In addition to earning her Ph.D. in clinical research at the University of Rochester, she also completed her post-master’s certificate as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

Before joining Ohio State in 2011, she was dean and Distinguished Foundation Professor in Nursing at Arizona State University’s College of Nursing & Health Innovation.

Melnyk is not a stranger to the IOM. She participated in a working group connected to an IOM task force on evidence-based medicine, which recommended that 90 percent of all health care decisions would be evidence-based by 2020.

Such a plan might sound obvious, but putting the research behind health care decision-making is an enormous undertaking. Evidence-based practice refers to making decisions about patient care that are based on the best evidence produced by well-designed clinical research in combination with a clinician’s expertise and a patient’s preferences and values.

Melnyk has seen firsthand how much that clinical research is needed, especially with children and adolescents. As a former member of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and chair of its child health working group for three years, she has taken a close look at the shortage of research about best health care practices for children and advocated for increased federal funding devoted to child-health studies.

“When we were writing our recommendations, we had numerous ‘I’ statements, meaning we had insufficient evidence,” she recalled. “We can’t even say what we should be doing in certain areas of child health because we don’t have enough research being done to serve as a basis for evidence-based recommendations and guidelines.”

The IOM, too, has recently issued recommendations to ramp up research with children, she noted.

Melnyk has devoted her research career to developing and testing interventions to improve outcomes in high-risk children, adolescents and parents. Her COPE program for parents of preterm infants, which has reduced length of neonatal intensive care unit stay and hospital readmissions, is now widely used across the U.S. and Europe. Most recently, Melnyk’s COPE Healthy Lifestyles TEEN program has been shown to prevent overweight/obesity as well as improve mental health and academic outcomes in high school teens.

“I appreciate the chance to be at the table to participate in and propose health and health care topics with solutions that I believe are critically important for our nation to address.”

Melnyk looks forward to further engagement with colleagues across the country through the IOM, which functions as a national advisory organization. Established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences, IOM has become recognized as a national resource for independent, scientifically informed analysis and recommendations on health issues to decision-makers and the public. With their election, members make a commitment to volunteer their service on IOM committees, boards and other activities.

“I am so thrilled because this gives me an opportunity to be part of several major recommendations into the future about important decisions concerning how we proceed with health and health care,” she said. “I appreciate the chance to be at the table to participate in and propose health and health care topics with solutions that I believe are critically important for our nation to address.”

Melnyk promises to be a strong Ohio State presence in her collaboration with colleagues on national issues, said Caroline Whitacre, vice president for research at Ohio State.

“Dr. Melnyk’s broad expertise and boundless energy will be a great asset as the Institute of Medicine pursues better understanding of the increasingly complicated health care landscape in this country,” Whitacre said. “Election to this prestigious organization is a fitting recognition of her dedication to improving the nation’s health.”

In addition to her administrative and faculty responsibilities at Ohio State, Melnyk has maintained a rigorous research program. Along with her research on interventions to enhance child and adolescent health, Melnyk continues to conduct studies on how best to improve health care quality and safety as well as patient outcomes through evidence-based practice. She also is leading a major national initiative to improve population health in institutions of higher learning through the recently launched Building Healthy Academic Communities National Consortium.

Melnyk has received more than $19 million in federal funding, co-authored over 200 publications and is co-editor of four books. She is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and the National Academies of Practice, and serves as editor of the journal Worldviews on Evidence-based Nursing. She also is a member of the National Quality Forum’s behavioral health steering committee and the Centers for Disease Control’s Laboratory Best Medicine Practices.

Including Melnyk, 31 Ohio State faculty currently serve as members of one of the National Academies: the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering (one professor is a member of both the IOM and the NAS). Melnyk is among eight IOM members at Ohio State.


Contact: Bernadette Melnyk, (614) 292-4844; Melnyk.15@osu.edu

Written by Emily Caldwell, (614) 292-8310; Caldwell.151@osu.edu