A photo of Melinda S. Butsch Kovacic.

Associate Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics



Biography & Affiliation


One of Dr. Butsch Kovacic’s long-term goals is to improve the understanding of how the environment modifies chronic disease risk in genetically and/or economically vulnerable children. To this end, she is the PI of an ongoing study that is evaluating associations between environmental exposures and biomarkers of oxidative stress and whether or not these biomarkers will better predict risk of severe/uncontrolled childhood asthma compared to parental report of exposure alone (previous NIEHS R21 and CCTST KL2). As part of this study, her team is evaluating diesel exhaust particle and second hand tobacco smoke exposures, as well as obesity levels, markers of inflammation and antioxidant status, genetic and socioeconomic factors, and DNA methylation patterns. As her preliminary data revealed strong associations between her outcomes and socioeconomic factors, over the last year, she has partnered with Cincinnati’s CoreChange, a grassroots advocacy group, and Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses (SHNH; http://7hillsnh.org/), a full service social service agency and community center in the West End of Cincinnati, to expand her research into the community using a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach. To this end, she has implemented a community-based research registry and begun needs assessments using a child-centered PhotoVoice approach and adult focus groups. A peer family health COACH (Coaching On Achieving Community Health) program will begin soon. To inform these community-based studies, she is collaborating on a project seeking to develop unique multimedia educational materials targeting low-income and low-literacy caregivers with asthmatic children.

In addition to these studies, she is also the PI of an ongoing longitudinal epidemiological study seeking to evaluate environmental and sexual exposure to human papillomavirus (HPV) in families with children diagnosed with Fanconi anemia (current NHLBI R01). Individuals with Fanconi anemia are genetically vulnerable to squamous head and neck cancers previously shown to be positively associated with HPV. Her team is testing for oral HPV DNA, HPV serological markers as well as markers of immune response. As part of this study, Dr. Butsch Kovacic regularly interacts with a community of families associated with the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund, a strong parent-led advocacy group focused on the improving the lives of children with Fanconi anemia, to design, optimize and disseminate the findings from her study.

Research Interests

Personalized medicine; genetic and environmental biomarkers of asthma and allergic disease; human papillomavirus infection and cancer; Fanconi anemia.

Academic Affiliation

Associate Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics


Asthma, Biostatistics


MPH: Quantitative Methods, Harvard University School of Public Health, Boston, MA, 2003.

PhD: Biochemistry, the Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, 2002.

Postdoctoral Fellowship: Epidemiology/Public Health, Cancer Prevention Fellowship, Hormonal and Reproductive Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, 2002-2006.


Somineni HK, Zhang X, Biagini Myers JM, Kovacic MB, Ulm A, Jurcak N, Ryan PH, Khurana Hershey GK, Ji H. Ten-eleven translocation 1 (TET1) methylation is associated with childhood asthma and traffic-related air pollution. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2015 Dec 9.

Butsch Kovacic M, Martin LJ, Biagini Myers JM, He H, Lindsey M, Mersha TB, Ji H, Khurana Hershey GK. Genetic Approach Identifies Distinct Asthma Pathways In Overweight vs. Normal Weight Children. Allergy. 2015 May 23.

Mersha TB, Martin LJ, Biagini Myers JM, Kovacic MB, He H, Lindsey M, Sivaprasad U, Chen W, Khurana Hershey GK. Genomic Architecture of Asthma Differs by Sex. Genomics. 2015 Mar 25.

Sauter SL, Wells SI, Zhang X, Hoskins EE, Davies SM, Myers KC, Mueller R, Panicker G, Unger ER, Sivaprasad U, Brown DR, Mehta PA, Butsch Kovacic M. Oral human papillomavirus is common in individuals with Fanconi Anemia. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarker Prev. 2015 Mar.

Katzenellenbogen RA, Carter JJ, Stern JE, Butsch Kovacic MS, Mehta PA, Sauter SL, Galloway DA, Winer RL. Skin and Mucosal Human Papillomavirus Seroprevalence in Persons with Fanconi Anemia. Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2015 Apr;22(4):413-20.

Kovacic MB, Stigler S, Smith A, Kidd A, Vaughn LM. Beginning a Partnership with Photo Voice to Explore Environmental Health and Health Inequities in Minority Communities. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014 Oct 27;11(11):11132-51.

Winer RL, Huang CE, Cherne S, Stern JE, Butsch Kovacic MS, Mehta PA, Sauter SL, Galloway DA, Katzenellenbogen RA. Detection Of Human Papillomavirus In The Oral Cavities Of Persons With Fanconi Anemia. Oral Dis. 2015 Apr;21(3):349-54.

Biagini Myers JM, Martin LJ, Butsch Kovacic M, Mersha TB, He H, Pilipenko V, Lindsey MA, Ericksen MB, Bernstein DI, LeMasters GK, Lockey JE, Khurana Hershey GK. Epistasis between serine protease inhibitor Kazal-type 5 (SPINK5) and thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) genes contributes to childhood asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2014 Oct;134(4):891-899.

Brandt EB, Kovacic MB, Lee GB, Gibson AM, Acciani TH, Le Cras TD, Ryan PH, Budelsky AL, Khurana Hershey GK. Diesel exhaust particle induction of IL-17A contributes to severe asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013 Nov:132(5): 1194-1204.

Epstein TG, LeMasters GK, Bernstein DI, Ericksen MB, Martin LJ, Ryan PH, Biagini Myers JM, Butsch Kovacic MS, Lindsey MA, He H, Reponen T, Villareal MS, Lockey JE, Bernstein CK, Khurana Hershey GK. Genetic variation in small proline rich protein 2B as a predictor for asthma among children with eczema. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2012 Mar;108(3):145-50.