Physician Education: Bridging Clinical Research and Patient Care

Faculty Profile

Assistant Professor
Division of Infectious Diseases
Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics, and Palliative Care
University of Alabama at Birmingham

Topics of Professional Interest:

HIV, chronic pain

Current Professional Summary:

Dr Jessica Merlin received her MD and MBA degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. She went on to complete a residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and a fellowship in Palliative Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), with joint appointments in the Divisions of Infectious Diseases and Gerontology, Geriatrics, and Palliative Care. Her clinical work includes directing the 1917 HIV/Palliative Care clinic, which cares for many HIV-infected patients with chronic pain.

Dr Merlin's research focus is on HIV and chronic pain, especially in patients with psychiatric and substance abuse comorbidities. In September 2012, she received a K12 career development award to adapt, pilot, and begin to validate a Brief Chronic Pain Screening tool in HIV-infected patients, and conduct qualitative interviews to learn more about the pain experience in HIV-infected patients. Her long-term interests are in understanding the relationship between chronic pain, alone and in the context of psychiatric illness and substance abuse, and HIV outcomes, and developing interventions to manage chronic pain in HIV-infected patients.

Dr Merlin enjoys teaching providers including physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, and counselors about HIV and chronic pain. She frequently lectures on this topic to medical residents, ID, and palliative care fellows at UAB, and at external grand rounds and Continuing Medical Education events.  She has developed a teaching module on HIV and chronic pain for the NIH Center for Excellence in Pain Education, and is a member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America HIV and Pain guidelines panel.    

Committees and Organizations:

Infectious Diseases Society of America HIV and Pain Guidelines Panel

American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine HIV Special Interest Group founding chair 

Honors and Awards:

2008 College of Palliative Care Scholarship Award; Penn Pearls Teaching Award, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

2010 Infectious Diseases Society of America Conference Scholarship

2011 American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine Young Investigator Award

2011 Advanced Illness and Multimorbidity (AIM) Scholar, University of Alabama at Birmingham

2013 American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine Research Scholar


Undergraduate:  Carnegie Mellon University (BS, Biology)

Graduate:  University of Pennsylvania (MD, MBA)

Residency: University of Pennsylvania (Internal Medicine)

Infectious Diseases Fellowship: University of Pennsylvania

Fellowship:  University of Pennsylania (Infectious Diseases), Mt. Sinai School of Medicine (Palliative Care)

Selected Publications:
  1. Merlin JS, Zinski A, Norton WE, Ritchie CS, Saag MS, Mugavero MJ, Treisman G, Hooten WM. A Conceptual Framework for Understanding Chronic Pain in Patients with HIV. Pain Pract. 2013 Apr 1; PMID: 23551857.
  2. Perry BA, Westfall AO, Molony E, Tucker R, Ritchie C, Saag MS, Mugavero MJ, Merlin JS. Characteristics of an Ambulatory Palliative Care Clinic for HIV-Infected Patients. J Palliat Med. 2013 Mar 11; PMID: 23477304.
  3. Merlin JS, Childers J, Arnold RM. Chronic pain in the outpatient palliative care clinic. Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2013 Mar;30(2):197-203. PMID: 22556285.
  4. Merlin JS, Tucker RO, Saag MS, Selwyn PA. The role of palliative care in the current HIV treatment era in developed countries. Top Antivir Med. 2013 Feb-Mar;21(1):20-6. PMID: 23596275.
  5. Merlin JS, Westfall AO, Raper JL, Zinski A, Norton WE, Willig JH, Gross R, Ritchie CS, Saag MS, Mugavero MJ. Pain, mood, and substance abuse in HIV: implications for clinic visit utilization, antiretroviral therapy adherence, and virologic failure. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2012 Oct 1;61(2):164-70. PMCID: PMC3459261.
  6. Merlin JS, Cen L, Praestgaard A, Turner M, Obando A, Alpert C, Woolston S, Casarett D, Kostman J, Gross R, Frank I. Pain and physical and psychological symptoms in ambulatory HIV patients in the current treatment era. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2012 Mar;43(3):638-45. PMID: 22115794.  Pub Med Journal – In Process.
  7. Merlin JS, Morrison G, Gluckman S, Lipschik G, Linkin DR, Lyon S, O'Grady E, Calvert H, Friedman H. Medical students in developing countries. J Gen Intern Med. 2011 Aug;26(8):833. PMCID: PMC3138993.
  8. Merlin JS, Morrison G, Gluckman S, Lipschik G, Linkin DR, Lyon S, O'Grady E, Calvert H, Friedman H. Blood and body fluid exposures among US medical students in Botswana. J Gen Intern Med. 2011 May;26(5):561-4. PMCID: PMC3077487.


15th Ryan White HIV/AIDS AETC Program Clinical CARE Conference: Moving Forward with CARE: Focusing on Passion, Purpose, and Excellence

An Advanced CME Live Course in HIV Pathogenesis, Antiretrovirals, and Other Selected Issues in HIV Disease Management