Heidi Gullett, MD, MPH

Heidi- headshot.png

Home Institution:
Case Western Reserve University

Family Medicine & Community Health

Current Positions:

    • »Assistant Professor, Center for Community Health Integration (CHI), Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine (CRWU)
    • »Charles Kent Smith, MD and Patricia Hughes Moore, MD Professorship in Medical Student Education in Family Medicine, CWRU School of Medicine
    • »Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, CWRU School of Medicine
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  • »Population Health Liaison between the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and CWRU School of Medicine
  • »Staff Physician, Neighborhood Family Practice (FQHC)
  • »Community Physician, Lutheran Hospital, Cleveland Clinic
  • »Medical Director, Cuyahoga County Board of Health
  • »Co-Chair, Health Improvement Partnership-Cuyahoga

What is the role of primary care in cultivating social capital to support a patient's movement out of poverty?

Fellow Project

Upstream determinants of health, such as poverty, cause inequities in health outcomes for individuals and populations. Poverty remains one of the most recalcitrant determinants of health, often layered with the complicated effects of systems and structures that perpetuate inequities around race, gender, sexual orientation, class and religion. Clinicians, working in a health system that increasingly commodifies care and actively discourages integrating functions, see the results of these upstream health determinants, but are not supported to meaningfully address them. As a family and public health physician, Dr. Gullett believes that it is vitally important to understand the root causes of the current fragmented system and to address the identified opportunities for integration of care to reduce the health effects of poverty.

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To that end, Dr. Gullett has been piloting a pragmatic program to address the conditions of both individual and community poverty known as Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By-World with patients in her clinical practice. This program is built on the framework of Bridges Out of Poverty, which enables people living in all 3 economic classes (poverty, middle class and wealth) to work together toward solving poverty through shared understanding. Getting Ahead consists of 16 three-hour sessions in which participating “investigators” – people living in poverty – simultaneously examine their own and their community’s experience of poverty while developing their own future story. Structured discussions consider historical and contemporary conditions, causes of poverty (individual behavior/choices, community conditions, exploitation and systems/structures), language, resources, and the hidden rules of class, among other topics.

During this ongoing research, Dr. Gullett has observed that Getting Ahead investigators frequently identify their primary care team as their [often sole] source of bridging social capital. Bridging social capital is a critical resource necessary for moving out of poverty. As a TIIH Fellow, Dr. Gullett is systematically building on this observation, using methods that enable understanding of Getting Ahead investigators’ life-course trajectories, to inform understanding of how individuals move out of poverty, and how primary care can be better understood and supported to serve as an impetus for movement out of poverty through bridging social capital. Elucidating the value of primary care in cultivating social capital as a means for movement out of poverty has the potential to serve as a key element of broadly characterizing and redesigning the role of primary care as a force for integration in the US health system. 



Heidi Gullett, MD, MPH, was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio. She completed her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Sociology/Anthropology at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, her MD at Wright State University in Dayton, and her MPH in Health Policy at Portland State University. She completed a combined residency in Family Medicine, Public Health, and General Preventive Medicine at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon, and is boarded in both specialties. Following residency, she served in the National Health Service Corps in rural Jellico, Tennessee, and in her hometown of Youngstown. 

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She has worked at community health centers for most of her career, including currently practicing at Neighborhood Family Practice on the west side of Cleveland. In her clinical practice, she provides family medicine care, including inpatient medicine, with an emphasis on women’s health services and previously spent ten years providing full scope maternity care services. Dr. Gullett is an assistant professor in the Center for Community Health Integration at Case Western Reserve University to promote research and development for community health and integrated, personalized care.

Education & Training

Diplomate, American Board of Family Medicine

Diplomate, American Board of Preventive Medicine

MD, Wright State University

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MPH, Portland State University

BS, Denison University


Selected Honors

Community Health Hero Award, Neighborhood Family Practice, 2018

Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, 2018

Tom Mettee, MD, Foundations of Clinical Medicine Teaching Award, 2018

Charles Kent Smith, MD and Patricia Hughes Moor, MD Professorship in Medical Student Education in Family Medicine, 2017

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Partners in Education, Evaluation, and Research (PEER) Faculty Partner Recognition, 2015

Kenneth G. Reeb, MD Family Medicine Residency Award for Excellence in Teaching, 2013

CWRU SOM Medical Student Family Medicine Mentorship Award, 2013

Academy for Healthcare Improvement Second Place Award for Curricular Innovation, 2012

Jack H. Medalie, MD Family Medicine Residency Enhancement Award, 2012

OHSU Family Medicine Merle Pennington, MD Outstanding Resident Achievement Award, 2007

National Health Service Corps Scholar, 2001-04

Dension Excellence in Service Volunteer of the Year, 1999

Granville Kussmaul Service Award, 1999


Selected Publications

Peer Reviewed Articles

Addressing Tobacco Cessation at Federally Qualified Health Centers: Current Practices & Resources
Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved. Accepted for publication, expected August 2019.

Primary Care Resident Training for Obesity, Nutrition, and Physical Activity Counseling: A Mixed-Methods Study. Health Promot Pract. 2016 July 8. PMID: 27402722

Primary care residents’ knowledge, attitudes, and self-efficacy regarding obesity, nutrition, and physical activity counseling. Journal of Graduate Medical Education. 2015; (2): 388-394. PMID: 26457144

Metrics in Assessing Improvements in Primary Health Care. Annual Review of Public Health. 2014; 35:423-42. PMID: 24641561

A Recipe for Collaborative Practice Improvement and Community Development for Health. London Journal of Primary Care. 2013;5:74–7. PMID: 25949693 

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Addressing structural racism is key community health priority in Cleveland. NEJM in response to Structural Racism and Supporting Black Lives: The Role of Health Professionals. October 19, 2016.

Make health more than just a number by reducing health disparities in Cuyahoga County: Heidi Gullett and Greg Brown (Opinion), Cleveland Plain Dealer. August 3, 2016.

Personal view: Big-picture thoughts on a healthier region. David Margolius and Heidi Gullett. Crain’s Cleveland Business, February 21, 2016. 

National Media Coverage

As health navigators, students see value of team approach. AMA Wire. February 20, 2016.

Life Expectancy in Cleveland. NPR Here and Now, July 19, 2016.  (Radio)

See more research papers on PubMed