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Michael Spencer

Michael S. Spencer, PhD

Inducted in 2015

Current Position

Presidential Term Professor; Director, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander & Oceanic Affairs, University of Washington School of Social Work


Ph.D., University of Washington

Dr. Spencer is the Presidential Term Professor at the University of Washington School of Social Work and Director of Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Oceanic Affairs at the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute (IWRI). He received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in Social Welfare (’96). Dr. Spencer also served as the Fedele F. Fauri Collegiate Professor of Social Work and Associate Dean for Educational Programs at the University of Michigan. He is of Native Hawaiian ancestry and is a graduate of the Kamehameha Schools (’83).

His research examines health and wellness among Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders and focuses on culturally-grounded interventions among Native Hawaiians through indigenous practices and values. Currently, his funded research examines the added benefit of integrating Native Hawaiian healing practices into primary care settings. He also works with colleagues at the University of Hawai’i on community-based, participatory research (CBPR) projects to promote health and wellbeing through various place-based interventions in Waimanālo, O’ahu among Native Hawaiians.

Since 2005, he also served as Principal Investigator of the REACH Detroit Family Intervention, an NIH and CDC-funded, CBPR project which aimed at reducing disparities in type 2 diabetes through the use of community health workers among African American and Latino residents in Detroit. He has also taught courses in diversity and social justice and community practice.

Dr. Spencer’s research has been recognized through multiple awards including induction in the inaugural class of the Fellows of the Society for Social Work Research (SSWR), selection as the 2014 Council on Social work Education (CSWE) Carl A. Scott Memorial Lecturer for Equity and Social Justice, election to the position of SSWR Board Member-at-Large, and selection for the CSWE Minority Fellowship Program. He also serves as the co-chair for the Indigenous cluster and special interest group for SSWR and is the co-chair for the AASWSW Closing the Health Gap Grand Challenge.

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