Heidi Gullett, MD, MPH

headshot of heidi gullett

Home Institution: Case Western Reserve University

Field: Family Medicine and Community Health

Current Positions:

My Driving Question

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. 

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 practiceThis 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 Nova Institute 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.

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 and Training
  • Diplomate, American Board of Family Medicine
  • Diplomate, American Board of Preventive Medicine
  • MD, Wright State University
  • 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
  • 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