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Karina L. Walters, PhD (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma)

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Director, NIH Tribal Health Research Office (THRO)


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Karina L. Walters, an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and is the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Tribal Health Research Office (THRO). Prior to her position at the NIH she was held the tenured full professorship and the distinguished Katherine Hall Chambers Scholar title at the University of Washington (UW) School of Social Work, and the founding Co-Director and Principal Investigator of the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute (IWRI; NIMHD P60MD006909). IWRI was one of 16 National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities Comprehensive Centers of Excellence and one of two devoted to American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) research in the country. Dr. Walters had over 20 years of experience in social epidemiological research on the historical, social, and cultural determinants of health among AIAN populations as well as chronic disease prevention research (e.g., HIV, AOD, obesity).

Dr. Walters presented at over 320+ national and international conferences; was an invited speaker for Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series (WALS) at the NIH; and was a Fulbright scholar at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Dr. Walters served as Principal Investigator or Co-I on over 37 National Institute of Health (NIH) grants (13 as PI) from diverse NIH institutes; mentored over 90 scholars from historically underrepresented populations including 35 AIAN scholars; and participated in 14 national research training programs for underrepresented ethnic minority scholars. Dr. Walters received her B.A. (sociology) in 1987, her M.S.W. (clinical) in 1990, and her Ph.D. in 1995 all from the University of California, Los Angeles. After serving on faculty as an Assistant and Associate Professor at Columbia University School of Social Work (1995‐2001), she joined the University of Washington faculty in 2001 and became Full Professor in 2011. She served as Director of the Doctoral Program (2003‐05) and as Associate Dean for Research (2012-2019). Prior to her career in academia, Dr. Walters was a community-based psychotherapist and served as Commissioner for the Los Angeles County American Indian Commission.