Mike Spencer is a UW Presidential Term Professor in Social Work and the director of Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Oceanic Affairs at the University of Washington Indigenous Wellness Research Institute (IWRI). He received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in Social Welfare ('96). Prior to his return to UW, Spencer 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 descent and is a graduate of the Kamehameha Schools (’83).
His research examines health and wellness among Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders and is focused on interventions that promote health among Native Hawaiians through indigenous practices and values. Currently, his funded research examines the added benefit of integrating Native Hawaiian healers into primary care in Waimanalo, O’ahu. He also works with colleagues at the University of Hawai’i to promote food security and wellbeing through the use of backyard aquaponics systems in Waimanalo among Native Hawaiians.
Since 2005, he also served as principal investigator of the REACH Detroit Family Intervention, an NIH and CDC-funded, community-based, participatory research (CBPR) project which aims at reducing disparities in type 2 diabetes through the use of community health workers among African American and Latino residents in Detroit. He has taught courses in diversity and social justice and community practice. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW) and the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) and serves as the co-chair for the Indigenous cluster and special interest group for SSWR. He also serves as co-chair of the Grand Challenge for Social Work Close the Health Gap and Eliminate Racism.