Director's Bio: Karina L. Walters, Ph.D., M.S.W.

Karina L. Walters, Ph.D., M.S.W.

Karina L. Walters, Ph.D., M.S.W.

Dr. Karina L. Walters became director of the Tribal Health Research Office (THRO) at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) in April 2023. In this role, Dr. Walters works to advance initiatives to ensure Tribally informed biomedical and behavioral research, enhance NIH’s Tribal Consultation and Tribal engagement efforts, and coordinate American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) research and research-related activities across NIH and with other federal entities. She is deeply committed to engaging Tribal leadership in health research efforts.

A social epidemiology and health prevention scholar, Dr. Walters has more than 28 years of AI/AN health research experience, encompassing foundational science, disease prevention, health promotion, and intervention research. She has conducted social epidemiological research on the environmental, historical, social, and cultural determinants of health and health equity in AI/AN communities as well as designed and empirically tested Tribally derived chronic disease prevention interventions. Much of her early social epidemiological research involved LGBT, Two Spirit, and urban AI/AN populations across the United States. Additionally, Dr. Walters has conducted Tribal-based intervention research in the areas of substance use disorders, obesity prevention and physical activity promotion, diabetes and depression, and HIV prevention. She has served as an NIH principal investigator or co-investigator on 35 NIH awards.

Prior to NIH, Dr. Walters was a tenured full professor and the Katherine Hall Chambers Scholar at the University of Washington (UW) School of Social Work. She also served as an adjunct professor in the Department of Global Health and the School of Public Health and is the founding director of the UW Indigenous Wellness Research Institute. From 2012-2019, she was Associate Dean for Research at the UW School of Social Work. Dr. Walters is the first American Indian fellow inducted into the American Academy of Social Welfare and Social Work. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and an M.S.W. and a Ph.D. in social welfare, also from UCLA.

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