Dr. Melissa A. Lewis
Professor, Health Behavior and Health Systems
Education & Experience:
I received my doctorate in Health and Social Psychology from North Dakota State University in 2005. I also hold MS and BS degrees in Psychology from Montana State University – Billings. I completed a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism T32 postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington’s Center for the Study of Health and Risk Behaviors in 2007. Prior to joining the UNTHSC School of Public Health in 2018, I was a member of the faculty in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington from 2007 to 2017.
Teaching Areas & Public Health Interests:
I have taught undergraduate and graduate courses in Health Psychology, Scientific Grant Writing, Career Development and Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. In addition to formal teaching, I have also enjoyed mentoring several undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral trainees and junior faculty. Areas in which I have provided mentoring include: research methods, data collection and analysis, dissertations, scientific writing, manuscript and grant reviewing, grant applications, promotion process and career development. A primary value-based goal of my career is to inspire others to have a career in research. I feel that developing the research pipeline is essential. Teaching and mentoring are highlights of my job that allow me to strive toward this goal.
Professional Activities & Awards:
I am an active member of the Research Society on Alcoholism, Association for Behavior and Cognitive Therapies, and the Society of Personality and Social Psychology. I have served on various local, national and international grant review committees and professional society program committees. I was awarded the Addictive Behaviors Special Interest Group Early Career Award of the Association for Behavior and Cognitive Therapies, a Division 50 of the American Psychological Association Early Career Presentation Award, and two early career poster travel awards from Division 50 of the American Psychological Association and NIAAA.
Throughout my career, I have focused on uncovering why adolescents and young adults engage in health-risk behavior and how we can, in turn, use that knowledge to identify protective and risk factors as well as prevent risk. My scholarly interests and pursuits focus on advancing the understanding of the dual processing nature of decisions to engage in health-risk behaviors and to inform theoretically sound and efficacious alcohol use and related risky sexual behavior interventions among adolescents and young adults. Alcohol use and concomitant risky sexual behavior are public health concerns (in terms of incidence and consequences) that often initiate during adolescence. Adolescents and young adults experience consequences associated with alcohol use and risky sexual behavior; thus, testing models with a focus on health-risk behaviors during adolescence and young adulthood is of critical importance. For many adolescents and young adults, when they begin drinking, they do so in an extreme fashion, with frequent heavy-episodic drinking episodes. Given the clear risks associated with heavy-episodic drinking (e.g., sexual assault, risky sexual behavior, injuries, death), why do so many adolescents and young adults begin or persist in known risky behaviors? What factors place some individuals at greater risk for negative consequences than others? How can we use our knowledge of risk and protective factors in interventions to reduce harm? These are precisely the type of questions my research seeks to answer. My research connects with my value to conduct research that has potential to make a significant impact to public health. I value research and policy that aims to expand prevention and intervention to adolescents and young adults. Our health services need to meet the needs of young adults and incorporate technology to bring preventative interventions to adolescents and young adults , with potential for significant impact on public health. My program of research has been funded by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, and the Alcohol Beverage Medical Research Foundation.