Erika A. Waters, PhD, MPH

Assistant Professor
Division of Public Health Sciences
Department of Surgery

Dr. Waters has a doctoral degree in social psychology and a Master of Public Health (MPH) with a concentration in epidemiology. Her research seeks to understand how people think about health risks and how those thoughts influence their health-related decisions and behavior. To accomplish this, she explores the rich variety of cognitive, emotional and social factors that make it difficult for people to use health risk information effectively. Understanding these inter-relationships will enable Dr. Waters to develop health communication and behavior interventions that aim to reduce disparities in cancer morbidity and mortality.

Dr. Waters has three primary lines of research:

  1. Explore how cigarette smokers’ responses to information about the presence of a genetic basis for nicotine addiction affect their thoughts, emotions and behavior related to smoking. Understanding differences in beliefs between African-American and Caucasian smokers, and between smokers with more and less formal education, is a priority.
  2. Examine how Internet-based health risk calculators such as Your Disease Risk can be used to affect people’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, including their possible role in alleviating health disparities.
  3. Understand how, why and under what circumstances people’s medical treatment decisions are influenced by the risk of experiencing medication side effects.

Most of Dr. Waters’ research focuses on cancer prevention, but the principles derived from her research have broader applicability to other conditions.