Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research


Melissa Blythe Harrell, PhD

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Professor, Epidemiology, Human Genetics & Environmental Sciences

Dr. Melissa Blythe Harrell is a Professor at the Center who resides at the Austin Campus, with other faculty at the UT Health School of Public Health. Her research interests focus on tobacco use among youth and young adults. A behavioral epidemiologist by training, Dr. Harrell has served as a Senior Writer and Editor of 3 Surgeon General’s Reports and 1 Institute of Medicine Report on this topic, and she has over 125 peer-reviewed publications.  She has been a leading investigator on 13 federally funded grants from the NIH and CDC to date, totaling more than $35 million in direct costs.   Dr. Harrell completed her undergraduate studies at the College of William & Mary (BS, Biology, 1991) and received her MPH (1999) and PhD (2002) from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota.  Since 2006, she has served on the faculty of UT Health, with appointments in the Departments of Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Environmental Sciences and the Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences. Dr. Harrell’s extensive research portfolio includes behavioral surveillance and intervention studies in Texas and other international settings (e.g., Uruguay, India, Africa). Over half of her publications include students or trainees as first authors, underscoring a strong commitment to mentoring and teaching the next generation of public health professionals.

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Past Projects:

Activate Ya

Texas Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science on Youth & Young Adults

Current Projects

Age of Initiation of Tobacco Products Among USA Youth and Young Adults

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This study involves a prospective secondary analysis of the first three waves of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study among U.S. youth (aged 12-17 years) and young adults (aged 18-24 years) who reported never use at Wave 1.

Recent Publications

Rising vape pod popularity disrupted declining use of electronic nicotine delivery systems among young adults in Texas from 2014-2019.

Loukas A, Marti CN, Pasch KE, Harrell MB, Wilkinson AV, Perry CL. Addiction. 2022 Jan;117(1):216-223. doi: 10.1111/add.15616. Epub 2021 Jul 5. PMID: 34159679; PMCID: PMC8664970.

Longitudinal trajectories of E-cigarette use among adolescents: A 5-year, multiple cohort study of vaping with and without marijuana.

(Harrell, M. B., Chen, B., Clendennen, S. L., Sumbe, A., Case, K. R., Wilkinson, A. V., ... & Perry, C. L. (2021). Preventive Medicine, 106670.)

Emotional symptoms and sensation seeking: Implications for tobacco interventions for youth and young adults.

(Bataineh, B. S., Wilkinson, A. V., Case, K. R., Clendennen, S. L., Sumbe, A., Chen, B., & Harrell, M. B. (2021). Tobacco Prevention & Cessation, 7.)

Self-reported history of intensity of smoking is associated with risk factors for suicide among high school students.

(Dasagi, M. Mantey, D. S., Harrell, M. B., Wilkinson, A. V. (In Press). PLoS One.)

Multi-directional pathways of tobacco and marijuana use, including comorbid use, among a population-based cohort of adolescents in Texas: A six-wave cross-lagged model

(Rogers, S. M., Harrell, M. B., Chen, B., Springer, A., Loukas, A., & Perry, C. L. (2021). Addictive Behaviors, 115, 106771.)