Melissa Walls, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine and BioBehavioral Health
Melissa Walls


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Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine and BioBehavioral Health


PhD, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Sociology), 2007

MA, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Sociology), 2004

BAS, University of Minnesota-Duluth (Psychology), 2002

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My research involves community-based participatory research (CBPR) with American Indian and First Nations communities. A key theme in our collaborative work is to understand the historical and contemporary social determinants of health/mental health for Indigenous individuals and families. Current and previous projects include funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Tribal affiliation: Bois Forte and Couchiching First Nation Anishinabe

Research Funding Grants

2016 Melissa Walls, Principal Investigator, Kelley Sittner and Les Whitbeck, Co-Investigators. “Indigenous Pathways of Substance Use and Mental Health through Early Adulthood.” (NIH R01). Awarded 4/15/2016 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities.

2016 Melissa Walls, Visiting Scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health. Pilot research funding to support the development of a competitive renewal (R01, NIDDK) application to evaluate the Together on Diabetes prevention and treatment curriculum. Awarded 4/1/2016 by the Johns Hopkins University Office of the Provost.

2015 Les Whitbeck, Principal Investigator, Cleve Redmond & Melissa Walls, Co-Investigators. “A RCT of a Family-Centered Ojibwe Substance Use Prevention.” (NIH R01). Awarded 5/1/2015 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

2012 Melissa Walls, Principal Investigator, Mustafa al’Absi, Kelley Hartshorn Sittner & Les Whitbeck, Co-Investigators. “Stress Exposure, Response, and Mental Health among Indigenous Adults with Type 2 Diabetes.” (NIH R01). Awarded 09/10/12 by National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

2012 Melissa Walls, Subaward Principal Investigator; Karina Walters, PI. “Indigenous HIV/AIDS Research Training Program Pilot Project: Homelessness among Indigenous Adults.” Awarded

6/2012; National Institute of Mental Health.

2012 Melissa Walls, Principal Investigator, Jennifer Andrashko, Prinicipal Investigator, Kent Cova Suarez, Aydin Durgonoglu, Lara LaCaille, Rick LaCaille, and Jennifer Theneman, Co-Investigators. “Understanding the Medical and Cultural Contexts of Diabetes Self Management in a Latino Population in Rural Minnesota.” Awarded by the University of Minnesota CTSI Office of Community Engagement for Health.

2011 Laurence Kirmayer, Principal Investigator; Melissa Walls, et al., Co-Investigators. “Culturally-Based, Family-Centred Mental Health Promotion for Aboriginal Youth: Phase 2.” Awarded 4/01/2011 Public Health Agency of Canada.

2010 Melissa L. Walls, Principal Investigator; Doris Isham, Julie Black Elk, Nadine Hoven and Jane Hovland, Co-Investigators. Community-Based Participatory Research at NIMH. “[Indigenous] Mental Health and Diabetes.” (NIH R21). Awarded 07/01/10 by the National Institute of Mental Health.

2010 Laurence Kirmayer, Principal Investigator; Melissa Wallsand Les Whitbeck, Co-Investigators. “Culturally-Based, Family-Centred Mental Health Promotion for Aboriginal Youth.” Awarded 04/01/2010 by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

2010 Melissa Walls, Principal Investigator. “Contemporary North American Indigenous Families: Conceptualization and Measurement Issues.” Awarded 01/01/10 by the University of Minnesota Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry and Scholarship program.

2009 James Boulger, Principal Investigator; Nadine Hoven, Jane Hovland, and Melissa Walls, Co-Investigators. “Rural Tele-Mental Health Services Expansion.” Awarded 1/1/2009 by the Healthier Minnesota Community Clinic Foundation.

2006 Melissa Walls, Principal Investigator. National Institute of Mental Health Predoctoral Fellowship Award. “Factors Associated with American Indian Youth Suicide.” Awarded 6/1/2006. 


  • Wille, Stephanie, Katherine Kemp, Brenna Greenfield and Melissa L. Walls. 2017. Barriers to healthcare for American Indians experiencing homelessness. Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless.
  • Greenfield, Brenna, Kelley Sittner, Miriam Forbes, Melissa Walls and Les Whitbeck. 2017. Conduct disorder and alcohol disorder trajectories, predictors and outcomes for Indigenous youth. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
  • Walls, Melissa, Les Whitbeck & Brian Armenta. 2016. A Cautionary Tale: Examining the Interplay of Culturally Specific Risk and Resilience Factors in Indigenous Communities. Clinical Psychological Science, online first doi: 10.1177/2167702616645795.
  • Carlson, Amanda, Benjamin Aronson, Michael Unzen, Melissa Lewis,, Gabrielle J. Benjamin, Melissa L. Walls. 2016. Apathy and Type 2 Diabetes Among American Indians: Exploring the Protective Effects of Traditional Cultural Involvement. Forthcoming in Journal of Healthcare for the Poor and Underserved. 
  • Walls, Melissa, Cynthia Pearson, Margarette Kading and Ciwang Teyra. 2016. Psychological Wellbeing in the Face of Adversity among American Indians: Preliminary Evidence of a New Population Health Paradox? Annals of Public Health and Research, 3(1): 1034.
  • Prunuske, Amy, Janelle Wilson, Melissa Walls, Hannah Marin and Benjamin Clarke. 2016. Efforts at Broadening Participation in the Sciences: An Examination of the Mentoring Experiences of Students from Underrepresented Groups. Life Sciences Education, 15(3).
  • Aronson, Benjamin, Laura Palombi and Melissa Walls. 2016. Rates and Consequences of Posttraumatic Distress among American Indian Adults with Type 2 Diabetes. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 39 (4): 694-703.
  • Aronson, Benjamin, Michelle Johnson-Jennings, Margarette Kading, Reed Smith and Melissa Walls. 2016. Mental Health Service and Provider Preference among American Indians with Type 2 Diabetes. American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research, 23(1): 1-23.
  • Kading, Margarette, Dane Hautala, Laura Palombi, Benjamin Aronson, Reid Smith and Melissa Walls. 2015. Flourishing: American Indian Positive Mental Health. Society and Mental Health, 5(3): 203-217.
  • Walls, Melissa, John Gonzalez, Tanya Gladney and Emily Onello. 2015. Unconscious Biases:Racial Microaggressions in American Indian Health Care. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 28(2): 231-239. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2015.02.140194. PMCID: PMC4386281
  • Johnson-Jennings, Michelle, Annie Belcourt, Matthew Town, Melissa Wallsand Karina Walters. 2014. Racial Discrimination’s Influence on Smoking Rates among American Indian/Alaska Native Two-Spirit Individuals: Does Pain Play a Role? Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 25(4): 1667-1678. PMID: 25418234
  • Walls, Melissa, Benjamin Aronson, Garrett Soper and Michelle Johnson-Jennings. 2014. The Prevalence and Correlates of Mental and Emotional Health among American Indian Adults with Type 2 Diabetes. The Diabetes Educator. Published online first, Feb. 21: doi: 10.1177/0145721714524282.
  • Whitbeck, Les, Kelley Sittner Hartshorn, Devan Crawford,Melissa Walls, Kari Gentzler & Dan Hoyt. 2014. Mental and substance use disorders from early adolescence to young adulthood among Indigenous young people: Final diagnostic results from an eight-year panel study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. Published online first, Jan.14: doi 10.1007/s00127-014-0825-0.
  • Walls, Melissa, Dane Hautala and Jenna Feldmeier. 2014. “Rebuilding Our Community”: Hearing Silenced Voices on Aboriginal Youth Suicide. Transcultural Psychiatry, 51(1): 47-72.
  • Prunuske, Amy, Janelle Wilson,Melissa Walls and Ben Clarke. 2013. Mentors' Experiences Training Underrepresented Undergraduates in the Research Laboratory. Life Sciences Education, 12(3): 403-409.
  • Walls, Melissa, Kelley Sittner Harthorn and Les Whitbeck. 2013. North American Indigenous Adolescent Substance Use. Addictive Behaviors, 38 (5), 2103-2109.
  • Whitbeck, Les, Melissa Walls & Melissa Welch. 2012. Substance Abuse Prevention in American Indian and Alaska Native Communities. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 38 (5): 421-427.
  • Walls, Melissa & Les Whitbeck. 2012. The Stressful Effects of Historical Cultural Losses. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 38 (5): 416-420.
  • Walls, Melissa and Les Whitbeck. 2012. The Intergenerational Effects of Relocation Policies on Indigenous Families. Journal of Family Issues, 33: 1272-1293.
  • Kumar, Mohan, Melissa Walls, Teresa Janz, Peter Hutchinson, Tara Turner, & Catherine Graham. 2012. Suicidal Ideation among Metis Adult Men and Women – Associated Risk and Protective Factors: Findings From a Nationally Representative Survey. International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 71.
  • Walls, Melissa and Les Whitbeck. 2011. Distress among Indigenous North Americans: Generalized and Culturally Relevant Stressors.Society and Mental Health, 1(2), 124-136.
  • Walls, Melissa and Les Whitbeck. 2010 (April, online before print)/2011. Maturation, Peer Context, and Indigenous Girls' Early-Onset Substance Use. Journal of Early Adolescence, 30(4), 415-442.
  • Whitbeck, Les, Melissa Walls, Kurt Johnson, Allan Morrisseau, and Cindy McDougall. 2009. Depressed Affect and Historical Losses among North American Indigenous Adolescents. American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research: The Journal of the National Center, 16(3), 16-41.
  • Whitbeck, Les,Dan Hoyt, ManSoo Yu, and Melissa Walls. 2008. Diagnostic Prevalence Rates from Early to Mid-Adolescence among Indigenous Adolescents: First Results from a Longitudinal Study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 47, 890-900.
  • Walls, Melissa. 2008. Trajectories of American Indian Alcohol and Marijuana Use Across the Middle School Years. Journal of Drug Issues, 38(4), 1139–1160.
  • Walls, Melissa, Constance Chapple, and Kurt Johnson. 2007. Strain, Emotion, and Suicide among American Indian Youth. Deviant Behavior, 28(3), 219-246.
  • Walls, Melissa, Les Whitbeck, Dan Hoyt and Kurt Johnson 2007. Early-Onset Alcohol Use among Native American Youth: Examining Female Caretaker Influence. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69(2), 451-464.
    Whitbeck, Les, Kurt Johnson, Dan Hoyt, and Melissa Walls. 2006. Prevalence and Comorbidity of Mental Health Disorders Among American Indian Children in the Northern Midwest. Journal of Adolescent Health, 39, 427-434.
  • Walls, Melissa, Kurt Johnson, Les Whitbeck, and Dan Hoyt. 2006. Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Preferences and Utilization Patterns among American Indian People of the Northern Midwest. Community Mental Health Journal, 42(6), 521-535.
  • 2014. Whitbeck, Les, Kelley Sittner Hartshorn, and Melissa Walls. Indigenous Adolescent Development: Psychological, Social and Historical Contexts. New York: Routledge.