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Michael Spencer

Fedele F. Fauri Collegiate Professor of Social Work

Michael  Spencer

Michael Spencer's research examines disparities in physical and mental health and service use of populations of color, as well as interventions for reducing disparities.

He is the Principal Investigator of the REACH Detroit Family Intervention, an NIH-funded, community-based, participatory research (CBPR) project which aims at reducing disparities in type 2 diabetes through the use of community health workers among Latino residents in Southwest Detroit. He also investigates the association between discrimination and physical and mental health as well as service use among Latinos, African Americans and Asian Americans.

Spencer has initiated several CBPR interventions on issues related to environmental justice and intergroup relations, including dialogue groups in local high schools as a means for negotiating conflict and promoting anti-bigotry and social justice among adolescents.

Research Interests/Focus

Disparities, mental health services, race/ethnicity, CBPR, discrimination, community health workers


Year Degree   School
1996 PhD Social Welfare University of Washington, Seattle
1992 MSSW Social Work University of Texas, Austin
1988 BA Psychology University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu


Reach Detroit Partnership

LeBrón, A. M. W., Spencer, M., Kieffer, E., Sinco, B., Piatt, G., & Palmisano, G. (in press). Correlates of everyday discrimination among Latino adults with diabetes: Findings from the REACH Detroit study. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Social Work.

Hopkins, M. T., Provenzano, A. M., Spencer, M., & Ellis, J. (in press). A descriptive case study of an El Sistema inspired after-school string program developed as a university-school partnership in the United States. International Journal of Music Education.

Hofer, R., Choi, H., Mase, R., Fagerlin, A., Spencer, M., & Heisler, M. (in press). Mediators and moderators of improvements in medication adherence: Secondary analysis of a community health worker-led diabetes medication self-management support program. Health Education and Behavior.

Hopkins, M. T., Provenzano, A. M., Spencer, M., & Ellis, J. (2016). Benefits, challenges, characteristics and instructional approaches in an El Sistema after-school string program developed as a university-school partnership in the United States. International Journal of Music Education, DOI: 10.1177/0255761416659509. Sage Journals.

Tang, T., Sinco, B. R., Funnel, M., Spencer, M. S., & Heisler, M. E. (2016). Peer-led, empowerment-based, approach to self-management efforts in diabetes (PLEASED): A randomized controlled trial in the African-American community. Annals of Family Medicine, 13(1), 27-35.

Rosland, A. M., Kieffer, E., Spencer, M. S., Sinco, B., Palmisano, G., Valerio, M., Nicklett, E., & Heisler, M. (2015). Do pre-existing diabetes social support or depressive symptoms influence the effectiveness of a diabetes management intervention? Patient Education and Counseling, 98(11), 1402-9.

Hawkins, J., Watkins, D. C., Kieffer, E., Spencer, M., Espitia, N., & Anderson, M. (2015). Psychosocial factors that influence health care use and self-management for African American and Latino men with type 2 diabetes: An exploratory study. Journal of Men's Studies, 23(2), 161-176. Sage Publications.

Spencer, M. S. (2015). Insider-Outsider reflections from a Native Hawaiian researcher and the use of community-based participatory approaches. Australian Psychiatry, 23(6), 45-47.

Heisler, M., Choi, H., Palmisano, G., Mase, R., Richardson, C. R., Fagerlin, A., Montori, V., Spencer, M., & An, L. (2014). Comparison of community health worker-led diabetes medication decision-making support for low-income Latino and African American adults with diabetes using e-Health tools versus print materials: A randomized controlled trial. Annals of Internal Medicine, 161(10 Suppl), S13-22.

Krings, A., Spencer, M. S., & Jimenez, K. (2014). Organizing for environmental justice: From bridges to taro patches. In S. Dutta and C. Ramanathan (Eds.) Governance, Development and Social Work. 185-200. Routledge Press.

Lebron, A., Valerio, M., Kieffer, E., Rosland, A., Sinco, B., Hawkins, J., Espitia, N. R., Palmisano, G., & Spencer, M. S. (2014). Everyday discrimination, diabetes-related distress, and depressive symptoms among African Americans and Latinos with diabetes. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 16(6), 1208.

Tang, T., Funnell, M., Sinco, B., Piatt, G., Palmisano, G., Spencer, M., Kieffer, E., & Heisler, M. (2014). Comparative effectiveness of peer leaders and community health workers in diabetes self-management support: Results of a randomized controlled trial. Diabetes Care.

Muroff, J., Spencer, M. S., Ross, A. M., Williams, D. R., Neighbors, H. W., & Jackson, J. S. (2014). Race, gender and conceptualizations of fear. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, Vol45(3), 153-162.

Spencer, M. S. (2013). Hawaiian Hoppin' John and Rice. In K. Corcoran (Ed.), Food for Thought: A Two-Year Cooking Guide for Social Work Students 69-71. Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books.

Spencer, M., Hawkins, J., Espitia, N., Sinco, B., Jennings, T., Lewis, C., Palmisano, G., & Kieffer, E. (2013). Influence of a diabetes lifestyle intervention on mental health outcomes among low-income Latino and African American adults with Type 2 diabetes. Race and Social Problems, 5(2), 137-146.

Hawkins, J., Kieffer, E., Sinco, B., Spencer, M., Anderson, M., & Rosland, A. (2013). Does gender influence participation? Predictors of participation in a community health worker diabetes management intervention with African-American and Latino adults. Diabetes Educator, 39(5), 647-654.

Wooley, A., Valerio M., Kieffer, E., Spencer M., Sinco, B., Rosland, A., Hawkins, J., Espitia, N., & Palmisano, G. (2013). Everyday racial/ethnic discrimination, depression, and diabetes-related distress among African Americans and Latinos with diabetes. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health.

Nicklett, E., Heisler, M., Spencer, M., & Rosland, A. (2013). Direct social support and long-term health of middle-aged and older adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Journal of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 68, 933-943.

Clarke, J. S., Kim, I., & Spencer, M. (2012). Engaging with culturally and racially diverse families. In C. Franklin, M. B. Harris & P. Allen-Meares (Eds.), School Services Sourcebook: A Guide for School Based Professionals (2nd ed.). 765-774. New York, NY: Oxford Press.

Gutierrez, L., Dessel A., Lewis, E., & Spencer, M. (2012). Promoting multicultural communication and collaboration: Dialogue, mediation, consensus building, and intergroup empowerment. In M. O. Weil (Ed.), Handbook of Community Practice (2nd ed.). New York: Sage.

Kim, I., Chen, J., & Spencer, M. S. (2012). Social determinants of health and mental health among Asian Americans in the United States. Journal of the Society of Social Work and Research, 3(4), 364-361.

Gutierrez, L., Dessel, A., Lewis, E., & Spencer, M. S. (2012). Principles, skills, and practice strategies for promoting multicultural communication and collaboration. In M. Weill (Ed.), Handbook of Community Practice (2nd ed.).

Spencer, M. S., Kohn-Wood, L. P., Dombrowski, R., Keeles, O., & Birichi, D. (2012). The use of photovoice methodology with African American mothers in Head Start: Environmental justice and well-being of poor children of color. In D. Nagata, L. Suzuki, & L. P. Kohn-Wood (Eds.), Qualitative Strategies for Ethnocultural Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Hung, S., Dronamraju, R., & Spencer, M. S. (2012). Selective mutism among preschool children: Strategies for practice and intervention. Children and Schools, 34(4), 222-230.

Spencer, M. S., Martineau, D. J., & Warren, N. (2011). Extending intergroup dialogue facilitation to multicultural social work practice. In K. E. Maxwell, B. Nagda, M. C. Thompson & P. Gurin (Eds.), Facilitating Intergroup Dialogues: Bridging Differences, Catalyzing Change. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Kim, I., & Spencer, M. S. (2011). Heavy drinking, perceived discrimination, and immigration status among Filipino Americans. Substance Use and Misuse, 46(10), 1256-1264.

Spencer, M. S., Garratt, A., Hockman, E., & Bryant, B. (2011). Environmental justice and the well-being of poor children of color. In D.T. Takeuchi, S. Kemp, L. Burton, & S. Matthews (Eds.), Communities, Neighborhoods, and Health: Expanding the Boundaries of Place. New York, NY: Springer.

Spencer, M., Rosland, A., Kieffer, E., & Sinco, B. (2011). Effectiveness of a community health worker intervention among African American and Latino adults with type 2 diabetes: A randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Public Health, 101(12), 2253-2260.

Hong, M., Valerio, M., & Spencer, M. S. (2011). Let's get moving: The need for more effective state-level physical education policies. Family and Community Health, 34, 51-60.

Perron, B. E., Ruffolo, M., Grogan-Kaylor, A., & Spencer, M. (2011). From SSWR to peer-reviewed publication: How many live, and how many die? Research on Social Work Practice, 21(5), 594-598.

Spencer, M. S., Chen, J., Gee, G. C., Fabian, C. G., & Takeuchi, D. T. (2010). Discrimination and mental health service use in a national study of Asian Americans. American Journal of Public Health, 100, 2410-2417.

Spencer, M. S., Gunter, K. E., & Palmisano, G. (2010). Community health workers and their value to social work. Social Work, 55, 169-180.

Laroche, H. H., Davis, M. M., Forman, J., Palmisano, G., Reisinger, H., & Spencer, M. S. (2009). Children's role in parent's diabetes self management. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 36, S251-S261.

Heisler, M., Spencer, M., Palmisano, G., Forman, J., Graddy-Dansby, G., & Kieffer, E. C. (2009). Participants' assessments of the effects of a community health worker intervention affected their diabetes self-management and interactions with health care providers. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 37(6S1), S270-S279.

Chen, J., Gee, G., Spencer, M. S., Danziger, S., & Takeuchi, D. T. (2009). Perceived social standing among Asian immigrants in the U.S.: Do reasons for immigration matter? Social Science Research, 38, 858-869.

Spencer, M. S., Brown, M., Griffin, S., & Abdullah, S. (2008). Outcome evaluation of the intergroup project. Small Group Research, 39(1), 82-103.

Rosland, A., Kieffer, E., Israel, B., Cofield, M., Palmisano, G., Sinco, B., Spencer, M. S., & Heisler, M. (2008). When is social support important? The association of family support and professional support with specific diabetes self-management behaviors. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 23(12), 1992-1999.

Spencer, M. S. (2008). A social worker's reflections on power, privilege, and oppression. Social Work, 53(2), 99-101.

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