Marcellus M. Merritt

Associate Professor

Dr. Merritt will recruit a new graduate student for Fall 2024 admission to the Health Masters program.

Curriculum Vita: pdf 210k

Web Site:


Ph.D., Howard University, 1997

Teaching and Research Interests:

My research program on stress and cardiovascular health disparities is comprised of two corresponding lines of work: 1) analysis of underlying social psychological and physiological stress mechanisms for excess rates of cardiovascular disease risk among diverse populations, and; 2) analysis of health protective behaviors that are linked with reduced risk for adverse health outcomes. For instance, my innovative research findings show how the John Henryism active coping (JHAC) hypothesis or how sustained effortful coping responses to everyday psychosocial demands is linked with a) poor daily cortisol responses among dementia family caregivers with more challenging care recipients and b) prolonged vascular recovery to anger recall stress among young adults from more socioeconomically disadvantaged family backgrounds. My research focuses on how these psychosocial mechanisms work in settings, such as community health care centers, primary medical care settings, and biomedical laboratory contexts.

Currently, I am examining how tailored relaxation interventions enhance cardiovascular and neuroendocrine recovery to mental stress and nighttime dipping blood pressure and heart rate among young adults with a history of cardiovascular disease. My colleagues and I believe that providing proper coping skills training and improving cardiovascular recovery to psychosocial stress will reduce future risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes among diverse populations. Our ultimate goal is to leverage this ideographically tailored part in an effort to promote better adoption and long-term adherence to relevant interventions. Along these lines, I am a consultant on a lifestyle modification intervention tailored to African American hypertensive patients in Milwaukee, WI.

In addition, I am collaborating with colleagues in the department of neurology at the Medical College of Wisconsin a series of innovative projects focused on heart rate variability as an indicator of the efficacy of behavioral and pharmacologic interventions in patients with autonomic disorders and chronic pain. These studies have two goals, to determine if better control of heart rate predicts cognitive and emotional flexibility and better treatment response, and to use various imaging techniques like fMRI to understand the links between pain modulation and autonomic control.

I teach undergraduate research methods and personality, the psychology of race, ethnicity and health and a graduate seminar in social psychology. I plan on accepting new graduate students for Fall 2015 to actively assist in the development and progression of these research projects.
Courses Taught:
Psych 325: Research Methods in Psychology
Psych 578: Race, Ethnicity, and Health
Psych 930: Seminar in Social Psychology
Selected Publications