Department of Medicine
Faculty Profiles by Division

Division of General Internal Medicine

Faculty Profiles

[Return To Index page]
photo Jessica S. Merlin, MD, PhD, MBA

General Internal Medicine

Associate Professor of Medicine in the tenure stream

Associate Director, General Internal Medicine Research Fellowship

Associate Program Director for Research, Internal Medicine Residency


Education and Training
BS, Biology with an additional major in History and Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, 2000
MD, University of Pennsylvania, 2005
MBA, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 2005
PhD, Health Behavior, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 2017
Residency, Internal Medicine, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, 2008
Fellowship, Infectious Diseases, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, 2010
Fellowship, Palliative Care, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, 2011
Research Interest
Dr. Merlin's is also a PhD-trained behavioral scientist and NIH-funded clinician-investigator. Her research includes foundational work on the pathophysiology, clinical epidemiology, and behavioral management of chronic pain in people with HIV. This work has extended to management approaches to pain and opioid misuse/use disorder in individuals with serious illness in palliative care settings. She has been recognized nationally for her work with three Young Investigator awards from relevant societies, an Inspirational Leader Under 40 Award from the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, and a Cambia Foundation Sojourns Scholar Leadership Award.
Clinical Interest
Dr. Merlin is a physician and is board certified in internal medicine, infectious disease, palliative care, and addiction medicine, and runs a pain and palliative care clinic embedded in an HIV patient-centered medical home. Her clinical interest is in chronic pain in people living with HIV (PLWH) and other medically and psychiatrically complex patient populations. While on faculty at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) from 2011-2017, she developed and ran the HIV Pain/Palliative Care clinic, which was embedded UAB's HIV Patient Centered Medical Home. This multidisciplinary clinic included a nurse practitioner, nurse, social worker, physical therapist, and pharmacist, and a total of 24 palliative care fellows in chronic pain care during her tenure. At Pitt, she leads the pain clinic at the Pittsburgh AIDS Center for Treatment (PACT) started by Dr. Bob Arnold.

Dr. Merlin also attends for one month per year on the inpatient general medicine service.
Educational Interest
Dr. Merlin is an active scientific mentor to trainees at the doctoral, post-doctoral, and junior faculty level, and is the Director of Mentoring for Pitt's Institute for Clinical Research Education as well as the Associate Program Director for Research for Pitt's Internal Medicine residency and incoming director of the General Internal Medicine research fellowship. She lectures to medical students, residents, fellows, and other physicians about chronic pain in primary care, and in patients with medical and psychiatric comorbidities. She is a frequent lecturer at the International AIDS Society-USA, AIDS Education and Training Center, and Ryan White conferences around the US.
For my complete bibliography, Click Here.
Selected Publications:
Merlin, J. S., Young, S. R., Arnold, R., Bulls, H. W., Childers, J., Gauthier, L., Giannitrapani, K. F., Kavalieratos, D., Schenker, Y., Wilson, J. D., Liebschutz, J. M. Managing opioids, including misuse and addiction, in patients with serious illness in ambulatory palliative care: a qualitative study. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. 2019.
Merlin, J. S., Samet, J. H., Cheng, D. M., Lira, M. C., Tsui, J. I., Forman, L. S., Colasanti, J., Walley, A. Y., Del Rio, C., Liebschutz, J. M. Marijuana use and its associations with pain, opioid dose, and HIV viral suppression among persons living with HIV on chronic opioid therapy. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. 2019; 82(2): 195-201.
Merlin, J. S., Long, D., Becker, W. C., Cachay, E. R., Christopolous, K. A., Claborn, K. R., Crane, H. M., Edelman, E. J., Lovejoy, T. I., Mathews, W. C., Morasco, B. J., Napravnik, S., O'Cleirigh, C., Saag, M. S., Starrels, J. L., Gross, R., Liebschutz, J. M. Marijuana use is not associated with changes in opioid prescriptions or pain severity among people living with HIV and chronic pain. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. 2019; 81(2): 231-237.
Merlin, J. S., Patel, K., Thompson, N., Kapo, J., Keefe, F., Liebschutz, J., Paice, J., Somers, T., Starrels, J., Childers, J., Schenker, Y., Ritchie, C. S. Managing chronic pain in cancer survivors prescribed long-term opioid therapy: a national survey of ambulatory palliative care providers. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. 2019; 57(1): 20-27.
Sponsored Research/Activities
Title: Evaluation of the Efficacy and Mechanism of a Novel Intervention for Chronic Pain Tailored to People Living with HIV
Role: Principal Investigator
Funding Agency: National Institute of Mental Health
Grant Number: R01 MH115754
Start Year: 2018
End Year: 2023
Title: Pain, Opioid Misuse, and Addiction in Ambulatory Palliative Care: Developing Consensus Approaches
Role: Principal Investigator
Funding Agency: Jewish Healthcare Foundation
Grant Number: RES
Start Year: 2018
End Year: 2019
Title: Development of a Behavioral Intervention for Chronic Pain in Individuals with HIV
Role: Principal Investigator
Funding Agency: National Institute of Mental Health
Grant Number: K23 MH104073
Start Year: 2017
End Year: 2018
Title: Appalachian Node
Role: Co-Investigator
Funding Agency: National Agency for Drug Abuse
Grant Number: UG1 DA049436
Start Year: 2019
End Year: 2024
Title: Spinal Manipulation and Patient Self-Management to Prevent Acute to Chronic Back Pain (PACBACK)
Role: Co-Investigator
Funding Agency: University of Minnesota/ National Institute of Health
Grant Number: R01 AT008769
Start Year: 2019
End Year: 2022
Notable Achievements
Sojourns Scholar, Cambia Health Foundation, 2019
Member at Large, Board of the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse, 2019-Present
Young Investigator Award, Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse, 2018
Boston University Safe and Competent Opioid Prescribing Education (SCOPE) trainer, 2016
National Institutes of Mental Health Career Development Award, 2014-2019
Study section reviewer, Palliative Care Research Cooperative Pilot Grant Program, 2015-present
Chief Resident Immersion Training Program in Addiction Faculty Mentor, 2014
Hospice and Palliative Medicine Inspirational Leader Under 40, American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, 2014
Pain Medicine Associate Editor, 2012-present
American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine Young Investigator Award, 2011