Gia Merlo

Faculty

Gia Merlo Headshot

Gia Merlo

Clinical Professor, Nursing & Psychiatry
Senior Advisor on Wellness

1 212 998 5323

Gia Merlo's additional information

Gia Merlo, MD, MBA, DipABLM, FACLM is clinical professor of nursing and Senior Advisor on Wellness, clinical professor of psychiatry in the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, and fellow of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. Her first book, Principles of Medical Professionalism (Oxford University Press), stresses the importance of physician wellness, need to address the social determinants of health, as well as the need to address chronic diseases with prevention. Merlo serves on the editorial board of the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine in the area of Mental Health and Psychiatry. She is a contributing author of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) curriculum Lifestyle Medicine 101 and of the board review course, Foundations to Lifestyle Medicine.

Dr. Merlo's current book projects include Nursing Lifestyle Principles and Practice (CRC Press/Taylor and Francis, forthcoming 2022) and Medical Professionalism: Theory, Education, and Practice (Oxford University Press, expected 2023). Merlo has served on the board of directors of many nonprofits over the years and is currently on the board of directors of Plant-Powered Metro of New York (PPMNY). She has been involved in clinician care and medical education for nearly 30 years in professional development and mental health, particularly of healthcare professionals.  

Before joining NYU, Merlo was associate dean of health professions at Rice University. She also taught medical students, residents, and fellows at Baylor College of Medicine, where she was a 2017-19 Master Teacher Fellow. She has served on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Rice University, Texas Children’s Hospital, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

MD - Nagarjuna University
MBA - Temple University

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
American College of Lifestyle Medicine
Academy of Professionalism in Health Care
American Society for Bioethics and Humanities
Harris County Medical Society
Houston Academy of Medicine
National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions
Obesity Medicine Association
Southeastern Association of Advisors for the Health Professions
Texas Association of Advisors for the Health Professions
Texas Medical Association
Texas Society of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians

Faculty Honors Awards

Master Teacher Fellowship, Baylor College of Medicine (2019)
Houston’s 50 Most Influential Women, Houston Women’s Magazine (2018)
Favorite Professor Award, Rice University Scholar Athletes (2017)
Fellowship, American Psychoanalytic Association (1997)

Publications

Mental Health in Lifestyle Medicine: A Call to Action

Merlo, G., & Vela, A. (2022). American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 16(1), 7-20. 10.1177/15598276211013313
Abstract
Abstract
Mental health symptoms are pervasive, with 1 in 5 American adults experiencing a mental disorder. Poor mental health is associated with a significant global cost burden, from disability to economic impacts. The field of lifestyle medicine, which emphasizes the role of lifestyle factors in the onset and treatment of disease and well-being, is well suited to address mental health. More recently, there has been attention to the need to incorporate mental health into the field of lifestyle medicine and to attend to the bidirectional role of mental health and lifestyle. Thus, there is a critical opportunity for the field of lifestyle medicine to incorporate mental health into each of the foundational pillars (diet, exercise, substance use, psychological well-being/stress, relationships, sleep) while also specifically targeting lifestyle interventions for populations with mental disorders. The current article provides a framework for the role of mental health within lifestyle medicine by addressing the scope of the problem, clarification regarding mental health, and areas of practice (ie, psychiatry), and providing an overview of the relevant mental health literature for each pillar. This article serves as a call to action to explicitly address and include mental health within all aspects of lifestyle medicine research and practice.

The Aging Physician

Merlo, G. (2021). In Principles of Medical Professionalism. Oxford University Press. 10.1093/med/9780197506226.003.0015
Abstract
Abstract
After decades of working in the medical field, physicians have gathered an extensive knowledge of human pathology as well as effective courses of treatment for illnesses. However, aging may also bring about cognitive deterioration, which may compromise the quality of care physicians provide to their patients. In 2015, 23 percent of physicians were above the age of 65. An estimated 25,000 to 50,000 active physicians are expected to suffer from mild cognitive impairment and up to 25,000 from dementia. Currently, physicians are not held to a mandatory retirement age and are not subject to oversight of their cognitive abilities and physical health as they age. However, the current system of self-regulation for cognitive impairment is insufficient for protecting patient safety; on the other hand, mandatory retirement or screening of aging physicians may be ethically or legally problematic. An optimal solution would balance the safety of patients and the dignity of aging physicians. It is likely to be multipronged and multifactorial, involving multiple screening steps and continued development to assess the quality of validation. Adoption of healthy lifestyle practices and financial literacy, as well as providing opportunities for retired physicians to stay involved with the medical profession, may encourage successful aging among physicians and ease the transition to retirement.

Applying Psychiatry and Psychology Principles to Lifestyle Approaches for Mental and Behavioral Health

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Artificial Intelligence in Medicine

Merlo, G. (2021). In Principles of Medical Professionalism. Oxford University Press. 10.1093/med/9780197506226.003.0004
Abstract
Abstract
Disruptive forces are challenging the future of medicine. One of the key forces bringing change is the development of artificial intelligence (AI). AI is a technological system designed to perform tasks that are commonly associated with human intelligence and ability. Machine learning is a subset of AI, and deep learning is an aspect of machine learning. AI can be categorized as either applied or generalized. Machine learning is key to applied AI; it is dynamic and can become more accurate through processing different results. Other new technologies include blockchain, which allows for the storage of all of patients’ records to create a connected health ecosystem. Medical professionals ought to be willing to accept new technology, while also developing the skills that technology will not be able to replicate.

Communication, Empathy, and Compassion

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Depression, Anxiety, and Physician Suicide

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Developing Cultural Praxis

Merlo, G. (2021). In Principles of Medical Professionalism. Oxford University Press. 10.1093/med/9780197506226.003.0007
Abstract
Abstract
The ever-evolving composition of the U.S. population prompts healthcare systems to adapt in order to provide care to diverse populations. Health disparities exist, and it is part of our responsibility as medical professionals to reflect on how the sociocultural determinants of health affect outcomes and uncover our unconscious or implicit biases to work towards health equity. The author defines this process as cultural praxis, drawing from Freire’s theory on developing a critical consciousness and understanding cultural humility. Physicians must also understand the systematic problems that lead to inequities in healthcare; the author defines this as structural competence. As in professional identity formation, development of a critical consciousness is an ongoing process that requires reflection, and cultural praxis is more than a set of competencies to be satisfied. This discusses strategies for developing cultural praxis, and provide reflective opportunities in scenarios in which cultural praxis is particularly important, such as in end-of-life care.

Happiness and Self-Care

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Lifestyle Medicine

Merlo, G. (2021). In Principles of Medical Professionalism. Oxford University Press. 10.1093/med/9780197506226.003.0009
Abstract
Abstract
This chapter addresses the rise of lifestyle medicine. The impact of chronic diseases on health and quality of life are well-known within the medical community. Preventive medicine has only been partially successful in addressing these problems. For physicians to advocate healthy lifestyle choices for their patients, they must first understand what a healthy lifestyle entails. The Six Pillars of Lifestyle Medicine outline the six main lifestyle changes—healthful eating, increasing physical activity, improving sleep, managing stress, avoiding risky substances, forming and maintaining relationships—that physicians should promote to their patients. The global public health burden of diabetes, obesity, and other lifestyle diseases is increasing at an astounding rate. However, very few training programs have robust educational offerings for physicians on nonpharmacological treatment of obesity and diabetes.

Looking to the Future

Merlo, G. (2021). In Principles of Medical Professionalism. Oxford University Press. 10.1093/med/9780197506226.003.0016
Abstract
Abstract
The physician’s role is continually changing and is sure to undergo significant changes in the near future. Among many other disruptive forces, healthcare continues to become more team- and technology-based. The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to be an important turning point for the medical profession. One current issue in healthcare is physicians experiencing moral distress due to conflicts between their duty as employees and their ultimate duty to patients. Other imminent changes are coming due to incorporation of technology, in particular, artificial intelligence and telehealth. These changes can be met through the process of lifelong learning, which entails a commitment to continually improve our knowledge and skills to deliver a high standard of care.