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Melissa K. Thomas, Ph.D.

  • Assistant Professor, Department of Primary Care
Melissa Thomas View high-resolution photo
Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine

Areas of Expertise

Expert Bio

Thomas’ career centers on addressing the health needs of communities by designing, implementing and evaluating community-led health education and promotion initiatives, especially in the area of cancer health disparities.  After combining her undergraduate degrees in political science, Spanish, and psychology, and a graduate degree in administration with a Ph.D. in public health, Thomas has been able to lay the foundation of a diverse education experience that has strengthened developing interventions aimed at improving the health of communities through changing behavior and systems. 

Her research centers on the efforts to address the burden of disease in rural and Appalachia Ohio. She has established a community-led nonprofit organization, called the Center for Appalachia Research in Cancer Education (CARE), to provide a framework to guide her research initiatives.  She also founded the Amish and Mennonite Breast Health Project which has served over 7,500 Amish and Mennonite women over a period of 23 years with women’s health care services in some of the most resourced-sections of the state and is now a multi-state initiative that continues to reach two of the world’s largest Amish settlements. 

Thomas has trained and continues to hire Amish and Mennonite Community Health Workers throughout Ohio who serve as direct links to the communities. She was also the first to estimate breast cancer incidence and mortality rates among Amish women in Ohio. 

Previously, Thomas acted as the Founding Director of the Office of Health Equity at one of the largest healthcare providers in the state, leading a statewide study testing the effectiveness of culturally competent education and healthcare services among Appalachian, Lesbian, Latino, African-American, Amish and Mennonite communities. 

Her current research projects include community-engaged cancer research initiatives in Appalachia Ohio and in Amish Country, identifying health outcomes and coping strategies among food insecure individuals in Appalachia, training and utilizing Community Health Workers in improving population health, and addressing the social determinants of health in rural communities.

Expertise at a Glance

Thomas is an expert in Health Disparities, Amish and Mennonite communities, and Rural and Appalachian Health. Her research include community-engaged cancer research initiatives in Appalachia Ohio and in Amish Country.

Media Placements

Apple Podcasts