physician photo

Erika A. Waters, PhD, MPH

Assistant Professor of Surgery

Learn more about Dr. Waters' research

Graduate School

MS, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ (Social Psychology), 2003

PhD, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ (Social Psychology), 2006

MPH, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD (Epidemiology), 2007

Post Doctoral Education

Cancer Prevention Fellow, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, 2006-2009

Honors and Awards

National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Award in Health Disparities, 2011

Fellows’ Award for Research Excellence (FARE), National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, 2009

Research Interests

Dr. Waters has a doctoral degree in social psychology and a Master of Public Health (MPH) with a concentration in epidemiology. Her research seeks to understand how people think about health risks and how those thoughts influence their health-related decisions and behavior. To accomplish this, she explores the rich variety of cognitive, emotional and social factors that make it difficult for people to use health risk information effectively. Understanding these inter-relationships will enable Dr. Waters to develop health communication and behavior interventions that aim to reduce disparities in cancer morbidity and mortality. Dr. Waters has three primary lines of research:

1. Explore how cigarette smokers’ responses to information about the presence of a genetic basis for nicotine addiction affect their thoughts, emotions and behavior related to smoking. Understanding differences in beliefs between African-American and Caucasian smokers, and between smokers with more and less formal education, is a priority.

2. Examine how Internet-based health risk calculators such as Your Disease Risk can be used to affect people’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, including their possible role in alleviating health disparities.

3. Understand how, why and under what circumstances people’s medical treatment decisions are influenced by the risk of experiencing medication side effects.

Most of Dr. Waters’ research focuses on cancer prevention, but the principles derived from her research have broader applicability to other conditions.

Contact Information

660 S. Euclid Avenue
Campus Box 8100
St. Louis, MO 63110
(314) 747-5705

Selected Publications

Waters EA, Weinstein ND, Colditz GA, Emmons K. Formats for improving risk communication in medical tradeoff decisions. Journal of Health Communication. 2006;11(2):167-82.

Waters EA, Weinstein ND, Colditz GA, Emmons K. Aversion to side effects in preventive medical treatment decisions. British Journal of Health Psychology. 2007;12:383-401.

Waters EA, Weinstein ND, Colditz GA, Emmons K. Reducing aversion to side effects in preventive medical treatment decisions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied. 2007;13(1):11-21.

Waters EA. Feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling at risk: A review of incidental affect's influence on likelihood estimates. Journal of Risk Research. 2008;11(5):569-95.

Waters EA, Sullivan HW, Finney Rutten LJ. Cancer prevention information-seeking among Hispanic and Non-Hispanic users of the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service: Trends in telephone and LiveHelp use. Journal of Health Communication. 2009;14(5):476-86.

Waters EA, Sullivan HW, Nelson W, Hesse BW. What is my cancer risk? Identifying how Internet-based cancer risk calculators convey individualized risk estimates to the public. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2009;11(3):e33.

Waters EA, Weinstein ND, Colditz GA, Emmons K. Explanations for side effect aversion in preventive medical treatment decisions. Health Psychology. 2009;28(2):201-9.

Waters EA, Cronin KA, Graubard BI, Han PK, Freedman AN. Prevalence of tamoxifen use for breast cancer chemoprevention among U.S. women. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention. In press.

Other peer-reviewed manuscripts:
Weinstein ND, Slovic P, Waters E, Gibson G. Public understanding of the illnesses caused by cigarette smoking. Nicotine & Tobacco Research. 2004;6(2):349-55

Hay JL, Harris J, Waters EA, Clayton MF, Ellington L, Abernethy AD, et al. Personal communication in primary and secondary cancer prevention: Evolving discussions, emerging challenges. Journal of Health Communication. 2009;14(Suppl 1):18-29.

Sullivan HW, Finney Rutten LJ, Waters EA. Requests for Cancer Prevention Information: The Cancer Information Service (2002-2006). Journal of Cancer Education. In press.

Dr. Waters on PubMed

Editorial Positions

Reviewer for:

British Journal of Health Psychology
Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention
Communication Yearbook
Journal of Experimental Psychology:Applied
Journal of Health Communication
Medical Decision Making
Methods of Information in Medicine
Risk Analysis
Social Science & Medicine


Emmons KM, Cuite C, Waters E. Cancer risk communication and comprehension. In: Schottenfeld D, Fraumini JF, editors. Cancer epidemiology and prevention. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2006. p. 1303-9.