A photo of Margaret Zeller.

Margaret H. Zeller, PhD

  • Pediatric Psychologist, Research, Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology
  • Director, Fellowship
  • Co-director, Center for Child Behavior and Nutrition Research and Training
  • Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics



I joined Cincinnati Children’s in 1999, and at that time, obesity rates were beginning to surge at epidemic proportions. I was uniquely positioned as a clinical provider and researcher on the multi-disciplinary team that developed the first comprehensive bariatric surgery program in the U.S. for adolescents with severe obesity. This experience led to collaborations and opportunities through my leadership within the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases’ Teen Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery (Teen-LABS) multisite consortium, and my associated R01 studies. This ongoing work compares adolescents with severe obesity who underwent bariatric surgery to a control group who did not undergo bariatric surgery. We track their psychosocial health and health risk behaviors across ten years, as they transition towards adulthood.

Bariatric surgery demonstrates high promise for reducing known risks for chronic disease and early mortality. However, our work suggested the tracking of adolescent weight and physical health outcomes alone may not sufficiently capture its relevance for public health issues of this patient age group, nor their potential long-term risks and medical needs as they age out of pediatrics and into adult primary care.

My research focuses on pediatric obesity, intergenerational obesity, bariatric surgery and family-based treatments. The goals are to fill research gaps, highlight health risks, understand treatment barriers and address new opportunities for treating obesity in youth. I am also interested in research training, professional development mentoring, training program development and administration as the central focus of my career. An emerging area within my research program is the development, piloting and execution of randomized clinical trials to translate observational research findings into evidence-based clinical care.

Early in my career, I was selected as a Fifth Third Bank/Charlotte R. Schmidlapp Women Scholar, from Cincinnati Children’s Department of Pediatrics program. This program supports the academic career development of women faculty who have demonstrated academic potential and leadership. In 2012, I was recognized for my work in the area of pediatric obesity by the American Psychological Association - Society of Pediatric Psychology (Division 54) Logan Wright Distinguished Research Award for “excellence and significant contributions in establishing the scientific base of pediatric psychology.”

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Mycophenolate mofetil use is associated with reduced incidence of food allergy in liver transplanted children. Ley, SL; Kidwell, KM; Van Dyk, TR; Orkin, S; Odar Stough, C; Howarth, T; Goetz, AR; Xanthakos, SA; Bramlage, K; Mouzaki, M; et al. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. 2022; 75:138-144.

Insight Into the Adolescent Patient Experience With Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Ley, SL; Kidwell, KM; Van Dyk, TR; Orkin, S; Odar Stough, C; Howarth, T; Goetz, AR; Xanthakos, SA; Bramlage, K; Mouzaki, M; et al. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. 2022; 75:88-96.

Early COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Characteristics in Mothers Following Bariatric Surgery: Correspondence - a Response. Strong, H; Reiter-Purtill, J; Zeller, MH. Obesity Surgery. 2022; 32:1775-1776.

Early COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Characteristics in Mothers Following Bariatric Surgery. Strong, H; Reiter-Purtill, J; Howarth, T; West-Smith, L; Zeller, MH. Obesity Surgery. 2022; 32:852-860.

Unhealthy Eating, Psychopathology, and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Youth Presenting for Bariatric Surgery. Ley, SL; Zeller, MH; Reiter-Purtill, J; Kleiner, DE; Dixon, J; Xanthakos, S. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. 2021; 73:670-676.

Prospective quality of life outcomes in pediatric fecal incontinence following bowel management. Lim, II P; Cushing, CC; Jenkins, T; Troutt, M; Zeller, MH; Hossain, M; Rymeski, B; Helmrath, M; Frischer, JS. Journal of Pediatric Surgery. 2021; 56:1459-1464.

Giving "prescriptions " for paediatric weight management follow-up in primary care. Kharofa, RY; Khalsa, AS; Zeller, MH; Modi, AC; Ollberding, NJ; Copeland, KA. Clinical obesity. 2021; 11.

Loss of Control Eating and Health Indicators Over 6 Years in Adolescents Undergoing Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. Goldschmidt, AB; Khoury, JC; Mitchell, JE; Jenkins, TM; Bond, DS; Zeller, MH; Michalsky, MP; Inge, TH. Obesity Research. 2021; 29:740-747.

Cigarette Use and Adolescent Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. Zeller, MH; Kidwell, KM; Reiter-Purtill, J; Jenkins, TM; Michalsky, MP; Mitchell, JE; Courcoulas, AP; Inge, TH. Obesity Research. 2021; 29:579-586.

A cross-sectional examination of the home food environments of mothers who have undergone metabolic and bariatric surgery: a pilot study. Rex, SM; Russel, K; Reiter-Purtill, J; Zeller, MH; Courcoulas, A; West-Smith, L; Robson, SM. Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases. 2020; 16:2016-2021.

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