Erika A. Waters, PhD, MPH

Erika A. Waters, PhD, MPH

Professor of Surgery



BS, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, 1999

MS, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, 2003

PhD, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, 2006

MPH, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, 2007

Postdoctoral Fellow, Cancer Prevention and Control, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, 2009

Teaching Appointments

Professor of Surgery, Division of Public Health Sciences

Professional Memberships

Society of Behavioral Medicine
American Psychological Association
Association for Psychological Science
Society for Medical Decision Making
Social Personality and Health Network
Society for Personality and Social Psychology
American Society for Preventive Oncology


Areas of Research Interest

Dr. Waters’ program of health communication, risk communication, and behavior change research translates foundational epidemiological, clinical, and genomic science into forms that help laypeople make adaptive health decisions. The interventions that result from this work are designed to maximize the potential for future dissemination and implementation. One branch of my research explores the rich variety of cognitive, emotional, and socio-contextual factors that shape whether, when, and how people understand and use health information effectively when making decisions about engaging in healthy behaviors. A second branch applies lessons-learned from foundational studies to develop traditional, eHealth, and mHealth communication and behavioral interventions that aim to increase engagement in health protective behaviors and reduce engagement in health damaging behaviors. She has a strong interest in research that seeks to understand and meet the practical information needs of populations that have been marginalized or underrepresented in research, including people of color and people with limited education, health literacy, and numeracy.


  • PMID: 35306275 – Towards emplaced understandings of risk: How caregivers of children with asthma identify and manage asthma-related risk across different places.
    • Ruiz S, Waters EA, Maki J, Fedele DA, Pogge G, Shepperd JA, Hunleth J. Health Place. 2022 May;75:102787. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2022.102787. Epub 2022 Mar 17.
  • PMID: 34813719 – Dismissing “Don’t Know” Responses to Perceived Risk Survey Items Threatens the Validity of Theoretical and Empirical Behavior-Change Research.
    • Waters EA, Kiviniemi MT, Hay JL, Orom H. Perspect Psychol Sci. 2022 May;17(3):841-851. doi: 10.1177/17456916211017860. Epub 2021 Nov 23.
  • PMID: 34523193 – Mental imagery-based self-regulation: Effects on physical activity behaviour and its cognitive and affective precursors over time.
    • Ackermann N, Cameron LD, Maki J, Carter CR, Liu Y, Dart H, Bowen DJ, Colditz GA, Waters EA. Br J Health Psychol. 2022 May;27(2):484-500. doi: 10.1111/bjhp.12558. Epub 2021 Sep 14. Clinical Trial.
  • PMID: 35033796 – How do embodied experiences of asthma influence caregiver conceptual models?
    • Spray J, Hunleth J, Ruiz S, Maki J, Fedele DA, Prabhakaran S, Fechtel H, Shepperd JA, Bowen DJ, Waters EA. Soc Sci Med. 2022 Feb;294:114706. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2022.114706. Epub 2022 Jan 10.
  • PMID: 33107771 – Situating household management of children’s asthma in the context of social, economic, and environmental injustice.
    • Hunleth J, Spray J, Ruiz S, Maki J, Fedele DA, Prabhakaran S, Forsyth RB, Sykes C, Crepps K, Shepperd J, Bowen D, Waters EA. J Asthma. 2022 Jan;59(1):70-78. doi: 10.1080/02770903.2020.1837159. Epub 2020 Oct 27.
  • PMID: 33905490 – Essentialism and Exclusion: Racism in Cancer Risk Prediction Models.
    • Waters EA, Colditz GA, Davis KL. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2021 Apr 26;113(12):1620-4. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djab074. Online ahead of print.
  • PMID: 33492238 – Adherence of Internet-Based Cancer Risk Assessment Tools to Best Practices in Risk Communication: Content Analysis.
    • Waters EA, Foust JL, Scherer LD, McQueen A, Taber JM. J Med Internet Res. 2021 Jan 25;23(1):e23318.
  • PMID: 33106087 – Risk Ladder, Table, or Bulleted List? Identifying Formats That Effectively Communicate Personalized Risk and Risk Reduction Information for Multiple Diseases.
    • Waters EA, Maki J, Liu Y, Ackermann N, Carter CR, Dart H, Bowen DJ, Cameron LD, Colditz GA. Med Decis Making. 2021 Jan;41(1):74-88. doi: 10.1177/0272989X20968070. Epub 2020 Oct 26.
  • PMID: 33046450 – Translating Cancer Risk Prediction Models into Personalized Cancer Risk Assessment Tools: Stumbling Blocks and Strategies for Success.
    • Waters EA, Taber JM, McQueen A, Housten AJ, Studts JL, Scherer LD. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2020 Dec;29(12):2389-2394. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-20-0861. Epub 2020 Oct 12.
  • PMID: 30903442 – Adapting a self-affirmation intervention for use in a mobile application for smokers.
    • Taber JM, McQueen A, Simonovic N, Waters EA. J Behav Med. 2019 Dec;42(6):1050-1061. doi: 10.1007/s10865-019-00028-1. Epub 2019 Mar 22. Clinical Trial.
  • PMID: 31646937 – Specifying Future Behavior When Assessing Risk Perceptions: Implications for Measurement and Theory.
    • Waters EA, Ackermann N, Wheeler CS. Med Decis Making. 2019 Nov;39(8):986-997. doi: 10.1177/0272989X19879704. Epub 2019 Oct 24.
  • PMID: 30120636 – Examining the Interrelations Among Objective and Subjective Health Literacy and Numeracy and Their Associations with Health Knowledge.
    • Waters EA, Biddle C, Kaphingst KA, Schofield E, Kiviniemi MT, Orom H, Li Y, Hay JL. J Gen Intern Med. 2018 Nov;33(11):1945-1953. doi: 10.1007/s11606-018-4624-2. Epub 2018 Aug 17.

660 S. Euclid Avenue
Campus Box 8100
St. Louis, MO 63110

To contact Dr. Waters, call 314-747-5705 or email