John Merriman


John Merriman headshot

John Merriman


Assistant Professor

1 212 998 5375
Accepting PhD students

John Merriman's additional information

John Merriman, PhD, RN, AOCNS is an assistant professor at NYU Meyers College of Nursing. He is interested in changes to cognitive function after a diagnosis of cancer and in biobehavioral correlates, particularly genomic markers and co-occurring symptoms. His program of research incorporates several phenotyping approaches to assess changes in cognitive function, including functional and structural neuroimaging, neuropsychological testing, and patient-reported outcomes.

Prof. Merriman’s study, funded by a K99/R00 award from the National Institute of Nursing Research (NR015473), uses these methods to examine the preliminary efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction versus a health enhancement program to improve cognitive function in postmenopausal women receiving aromatase inhibitor therapy for breast cancer. 

Prior to joining the faculty at NYU, he completed postdoctoral training at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing. He completed his PhD and MS in nursing at the University of California, San Francisco School of Nursing.

PhD, Nursing - University of California San Francisco
MS, Nursing - University of California San Francisco
BS, Communication - Mississippi College

Chronic disease
Complementary/integrative health
Women's health

American Nurses Association
American Society of Human Genetics
Eastern Nursing Research Society
International Society of Nurses in Genetics
Oncology Nursing Society
Sigma Theta Tau International

Faculty Honors Awards

Postdoctoral Alumni Award, University of Pittsburgh Postdoctoral Association (2016)
International inductee, Sigma Theta Tau (2006)
Inductee, Mortar Board (1993)


An integrative review: Women’s psychosocial vulnerability in relation to paid work after a breast cancer diagnosis

Melnyk, H., Djukic, M., Merriman, J., & Vaughan Dickson, V. (2021). Journal of Advanced Nursing, 77(5), 2144-2154. 10.1111/jan.14730
Aim: The aim of this integrative review was to explore psychosocial vulnerabilities in women after a breast cancer diagnosis that are related to their paid work. Design: The review methodology was guided by Whittemore and Knafl. The Mehnert Cancer Survivorship and Work Model provided a lens through which to view vulnerability in working women with a focus on facilitating interventions to improve both recovery and work outcomes. Data Sources: PUBMED, CINAHL, Web of Science, and PsycNET databases were searched for English language papers published between January 2014–June 2020. Review Methods: Titles and abstracts were screened. Inclusion/exclusion criteria were then applied to full text screen of the remaining articles following PRISMA guidelines. Thirteen studies meeting the inclusion criteria were critically appraised using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) checklist. A constant comparison approach was used to systematically distil findings into categories and assess their fit within the Mehnert Model subdomains. Results: Vulnerabilities coalesced predominantly within the following subdomains: (a) changes in identity and role functioning; (b) social reintegration; (c) coping strategies; and (d) social supports. Patterns and themes within these subdomains were related both positively and negatively to form the contours of a survivor's satisfaction/dissatisfaction with quality of life related to work and breast cancer recovery. Conclusion: Overall, findings highlight the importance of employment and work environments in bolstering women's psychosocial health after a breast cancer diagnosis. Impact: Findings from this review support adapting psychosocial distress screening to include vulnerabilities relating to work life. Nurses are ideally positioned to facilitate this screening and engage clinicians in a dialogue surrounding patient's support needs due to nursing's central role on the interdisciplinary team. Nurses may also foster collective accountability for implementing ongoing multidisciplinary survivorship care plans that include a return to work component.

Limb Volume Changes and Activities of Daily Living: A Prospective Study

Park, J. H., Merriman, J., Brody, A., Fletcher, J., Yu, G., Ko, E., Yancey, A., & Fu, M. R. (2021). Lymphatic Research and Biology, 19(3), 261-268. 10.1089/lrb.2020.0077
Background: Breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL) limits the movements of patients' limbs, which leads to a diminished ability to achieve essential activities of daily living (ADLs). The purpose of this study was to examine the associations between limb volume changes from the baseline before breast cancer surgery and self-reported difficulty in performing ADLs at 12 months following cancer surgery. We hypothesized that a positive association existed between limb volume changes from the baseline and self-reported difficulty in performing ADLs at 12 months following breast cancer surgery. Methods and Results: The data of the present study were part of a larger study with 140 breast cancer patients recruited before breast cancer surgery and followed up during their first year of treatment. Patients with more than 10% limb volume increase reported more frequent distress in performing 13 ADL items, compared with patients whose limb volume increased by 5%-10%. Regression analysis showed a significant increase in the odds ratio of reporting difficulty in ADLs compared with the group with less than 5% limb volume increase. Conclusion: Overall, patients with a greater limb volume increase underwent more difficulty performing ADLs. Patients reported more difficulty in performing ADLs even with 5%-10% limb volume increase. Currently, there is no standardized guideline to diagnose BCRL, although previous evidence suggests a limb volume increase greater than 10% as a criterion for BCRL. The findings from the present study suggest a more precise and clinically meaningful criteria for diagnosing BCRL to accommodate those with 5%-10% increase in limb volume.

Survivors’ Dilemma: Young Adult Cancer Survivors’ Perspectives of Work-Related Goals

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An Adapted Conceptual Model Integrating Palliative Care in Serious Illness and Multiple Chronic Conditions

Murali, K. P., Merriman, J. D., Yu, G., Vorderstrasse, A., Kelley, A., & Brody, A. A. (2020). American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, 37(12), 1086-1095. 10.1177/1049909120928353
Objective: Seriously ill adults with multiple chronic conditions (MCC) who receive palliative care may benefit from improved symptom burden, health care utilization and cost, caregiver stress, and quality of life. To guide research involving serious illness and MCC, palliative care can be integrated into a conceptual model to develop future research studies to improve care strategies and outcomes in this population. Methods: The adapted conceptual model was developed based on a thorough review of the literature, in which current evidence and conceptual models related to serious illness, MCC, and palliative care were appraised. Factors contributing to patients’ needs, services received, and service-related variables were identified. Relevant patient outcomes and evidence gaps are also highlighted. Results: Fifty-eight articles were synthesized to inform the development of an adapted conceptual model including serious illness, MCC, and palliative care. Concepts were organized into 4 main conceptual groups, including Factors Affecting Needs (sociodemographic and social determinants of health), Factors Affecting Services Received (health system; research, evidence base, dissemination, and health policy; community resources), Service-Related Variables (patient visits, service mix, quality of care, patient information, experience), and Outcomes (symptom burden, quality of life, function, advance care planning, goal-concordant care, utilization, cost, death, site of death, satisfaction). Discussion: The adapted conceptual model integrates palliative care with serious illness and multiple chronic conditions. The model is intended to guide the development of research studies involving seriously ill adults with MCC and aid researchers in addressing relevant evidence gaps.

Exploratory Study of Associations Between DNA Repair and Oxidative Stress Gene Polymorphisms and Cognitive Problems Reported by Postmenopausal Women With and Without Breast Cancer

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Symptom Science: Advocating for Inclusion of Functional Genetic Polymorphisms

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Trajectories of cognitive function and associated phenotypic and genotypic factors in breast cancer

Bender, C. M., Merriman, J. D., Sereika, S. M., Gentry, A. L., Casillo, F. E., Koleck, T. A., Rosenzweig, M. Q., Brufsky, A. M., McAuliffe, P., Zhu, Y., & Conley, Y. P. (2018). Oncology Nursing Forum, 45(3), 308-326. 10.1188/18.ONF.308-326
OBJECTIVES: This study identified women with unique trajectories of executive function, concentration, and visual working memory before and during adjuvant therapy for breast cancer, and examined phenotypic and genotypic predictors associated with subgroups. SAMPLE & SETTING: 399 postmenopausal women, of whom 288 were women with early-stage breast cancer and 111 were women without breast cancer, matched on age and years of education to the women with breast cancer, and all at an urban cancer center. METHODS & VARIABLES: A repeated-measures design was used; assessments occurred before adjuvant therapy and every six months post-therapy initiation. Group-based trajectory modeling determined subgroups. Multinomial logistic regression identified phenotypic and genotypic characteristics. RESULTS: Three executive function and concentration trajectory subgroups were identified: low, moderate, and high; two visual working memory subgroups were identified: low and high. IMPLICATIONS FOR NURSING: Advancing age, greater pretherapy fatigue, and poorer pretherapy cognitive function are associated with the low subgroups. DNA repair and oxidative stress mechanisms may be involved in the cognitive changes that women experience.

Trajectories of self-reported cognitive function in postmenopausal women during adjuvant systemic therapy for breast cancer

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The association between pre-treatment occupational skill level and mood and symptom burden in early-stage, postmenopausal breast cancer survivors during the first year of anastrozole therapy

Nugent, B. D., Sereika, S. M., Rosenzweig, M., McCue, M., Merriman, J. D., & Bender, C. M. (2016). Supportive Care in Cancer, 24(8), 3401-3409. 10.1007/s00520-016-3161-y
Purpose: Previous research has explored occupational activity of breast cancer survivors but has not examined the influence of occupational level on symptoms prospectively. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between occupational classification and changes in mood and symptom burden for postmenopausal breast cancer survivors during the first year of anastrozole therapy. Methods: This was an exploratory secondary analysis in 49 postmenopausal women receiving anastrozole therapy for early-stage breast cancer. Participants reported their occupation at baseline and completed self-report questionnaires measuring mood and symptom burden at baseline, 6 months, and 12 months. Occupation was classified according to four major skill levels delineated by the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO). Results: Breast cancer survivors employed at occupational skill levels 1 through 3 reported significantly higher depressive symptoms, fatigue, and total symptoms on average than those employed at ISCO skill level 4. After adjusting for multiple comparisons, this pattern remained for the musculoskeletal, vasomotor, and gastrointestinal symptom subscales. Conclusions: Breast cancer survivors employed at lower skill levels (i.e., ISCO 1–3) reported poorer mood and greater symptom burden than breast cancer survivors employed at a higher skill level (i.e., ISCO 4). Assessing baseline occupation of occupationally active breast cancer survivors may improve understanding of the association between types of occupations and mood and symptom trajectories and may inform development of interventions to mitigate symptom severity in order to help breast cancer survivors maintain optimal occupational function and adherence to therapy.

Associations between catecholaminergic, GABAergic, and serotonergic genes and self-reported attentional function in oncology patients and their family caregivers

Merriman, J. D., Aouizerat, B. E., Cataldo, J. K., Dunn, L. B., Kober, K., Langford, D. J., West, C., Cooper, B. A., Paul, S. M., & Miaskowski, C. (2015). European Journal of Oncology Nursing, 19(3), 251-259. 10.1016/j.ejon.2014.11.004
Purpose of the research: Evaluate for associations between variations in genes involved in catecholaminergic, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-ergic, and serotonergic mechanisms of neurotransmission and attentional function latent classes. Patients and methods: This descriptive, longitudinal study was conducted at two radiation therapy departments. The sample included three latent classes of individuals with distinct trajectories of self-reported attentional function during radiation therapy, who were previously identified using growth mixture modeling among 167 oncology patients and 85 of their family caregivers. Multivariable models were used to evaluate for genotypic associations of neurotransmission genes with attentional function latent class membership, after controlling for covariates. Results: Variations in catecholaminergic (i.e., ADRA1D rs4815675, SLC6A3 rs37022), GABAergic (i.e., SLC6A1 rs2697138), and serotonergic (i.e., HTR2A rs2296972, rs9534496) neurotransmission genes were significant predictors of latent class membership in multivariable models. Conclusions: Findings suggest that variations in genes that encode for three distinct but related neurotransmission systems are involved in alterations in attentional function. Knowledge of both phenotypic and genetic markers associated with alterations in attentional function can be used by clinicians to identify patients and family caregivers who are at higher risk for this symptom. Increased understanding of the genetic markers associated with alterations in attentional function may provide insights into the underlying mechanisms for this significant clinical problem.