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Mellissa Withers, PhD


Program Manager (APRU Global Health Program)

Mellissa Withers received her Ph.D. in Community Health Sciences from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health in Los Angeles, USA in 2009 with an emphasis on medical anthropology. Her dissertation was related to fertility intentions in Bali, Indonesia, where she lived for 15 months. She also holds a Master’s in Health Sciences from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of International Health in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Her Master’s concentration was Health Systems Management. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. degree in Global Development.

She is currently an Assistant Clinic Professor at the USC Institute for Global Health, where she teaches global health-related courses. She also works as an independent health research consultant. Her current research focuses on global reproductive health and women’s empowerment, including human trafficking, preventing unintended pregnancy, HIV/AIDS prevention among sex workers in Asia, and engaging male partners in family planning in sub-Saharan Africa. Other research interests include community participatory research; cultural competency; qualitative methodology; border, migrant, and refugee health; and how culture influences health-seeking behavior.  Prior to coming to USC, she taught at UCLA in the Department of Anthropology and other universities throughout California.

She has traveled to more than 50 countries and has lived in Mexico, Costa Rica and Indonesia. She enjoys salsa dancing, kayaking and yoga. 


Tuan, NT, Withers, M, Hajeebhoy, N, Frongillo, EA. Feeding of infant formula at birth is common and associated with subsequent breastfeeding behavior: a representative study from Vietnam. Journal of Nutrition, in-press.

Prata, N, Fraser, A. Huchko, MJ, Gipson, JD, Withers, M, Lewis, S, Ciaraldi, EJ, Upadhyay, UD.  Women’s Empowerment and Family Planning: A Review of the Literature. Journal of Biosocial Sciences, in–press. 

Withers, M, and Browner, C. “The role of Balinese culture in explaining inconsistencies between fertility intentions and reproductive outcomes.” Choudhury, SM, Toller Erasquin, J., and Withers, M. (editors) Global Perspectives on Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Across the Lifespan. Springer Publishers, due out 2017.

Tavrow, P, Bloom, B, Withers, M. (2015) Intimate partner violence screening practices in California after passage of the Affordable Care Act. Violence Against Women, e-published ahead of print. pii: 1077801216652505

Withers, M, Press, D, Wipfli, H, McCool, J, Chan, CC, Jimba, M, Tremewan, C, Samet, J.  Training the next generation of global health experts: experiences and recommendations from Pacific Rim universities. Globalization and Health, 12(1): 34-38. doi: 10.1186/s12992-016-0162-z.

Samet J. and Withers, M. The APRU Global Health Program: Past and Future. Journal of Epidemiology, 26(4): 166-170, 2016. doi: 10.2188/jea.JE20160049. PMID: 27052883

Tuan, NT, Withers, M, Hajeebhoy, N, Frongillo, EA. Estimates of the quality of complementary feeding among Vietnamese infants aged 6−23 months varied by how commercial baby cereals were classified in 24-hour recalls. Maternal and Child Nutrition, Feb 3. doi: 10.1111/mcn.12295. PMID: 26840499

Harrington, E, Dworkin, S, Withers, M and Newmann, S. Gendered power dynamics and women's negotiation of family planning in the context of HIV: A qualitative study of couples in western Kenya. Culture, Health and Sexuality, 26:1-17, 2015. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2015.1091507. PMID: 26503879

Browner, C. and Withers, M. (2015) “Reproduction” Encyclopedia of Human Sexuality, Eds. Patricia Wheelan and Anne Bolin, Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, New Jersey.

Withers, M., Dworkin, S., Onono, M., Oyier, B, Grossman, D., Cohen, C., Bukusi, E. and Newmann, S. How should men’s involvement in family planning be increased?  A view of men’s perspectives in Nyanza Province, Kenya. Studies in Family Planning, 46(2): 201-15, 2015. doi: 10.1111/j.1728-4465.2015.00024.x. PMID: 26059990

Withers, M., Dworkin, S., Zakaras, J.M.,  Onono, M., Oyier, B, Cohen, C., Bukusi, E. and Newmann, S. “Women Now Wear Trousers”: Men’s Perceptions of Family Planning Use in the   Context of Changing Gender Relations in Western Kenya.  Culture, Health and Sexuality, 17(9): 1132-46, 2015. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2015.1043144. PMID: 26032620

Maternowska, M.C., Mashu, A., Moyo, P., Withers, M., Chipato, T. Perceptions of Misoprostol among Providers and Women Seeking Post-Abortion Care in Zimbabwe. Reproductive Health Matters, Supp(43): 1-10, 2015. doi: 10.1016/S0968-8080(14)43792-3. PMID: 25702065

Withers, M., Moran, R., Katz, P, Nicassio, P, Weisman, M, and Karpouzas, GA. Perspectives of Vulnerable US Hispanics with Rheumatoid Arthritis on Depression: Awareness, Barriers to Disclosure and Treatment Options. Arthritis Care and Research, 67(4): 484-92, 2015. doi: 10.1002/acr.22462. PMID: 25187020

Maternowska, C. Withers, M., and Brindis. C. Gender, masculinity and migration: Mexican men and reproductive health in the Californian context. Culture, Health and Sexuality, 16(8): 989-1002, 2014. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2014.920529. PMID: 24939475 

Upadhyay, U., Gipson, J., Withers, M., Fraser, A., Huchko, M.J., Lewis, S., and Prata, N. Women’s Empowerment and Reproductive Health: A Review of the Literature. Social Science and Medicine, 115: 111-20, 2014. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.06.014. PMID: 24955875

Withers, M., Dworkin, S., Harrington, E., Kwena, Z., Onono, M., Bukusi, E.B., Cohen, C.R., Newmann, S.J. Fertility Intentions among Kenyan Couples after HIV diagnosis: a qualitative investigation. Culture, Health and Sexuality, 15(10): 1175-90, 2013. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2013.811289.  PMID: 23885924

Withers, M., Browner, C. and Aghaloo, T. Promoting Volunteerism in Global Health: Lessons from a Medical Mission in Northern Mexico. Journal of Community Health, 38(2):374-84, 2013. doi: 10.1007/s10900-012-9627-z. PMID: 23139029

Tavrow, P, Withers, M., Obbuyi, A. Omollo, V. and Wu, E. Rape myth attitudes in rural Kenya: Towards the development of a culturally-relevant attitude scale and “blame index. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 28(10):2156-78, 2013. doi: 10.1177/0886260512471086. PMID: 23300194

Harrington, E., M. Withers, S. Dworkin, Z. Kwena, M. Onono, D. Grossman, E. Bukusi, C. R. Cohen, and S. J. Newmann. Covert Contraceptive Use and Relationship Power Dynamics among Couples in Nyanza Province, Kenya. Contraception, 88 (3): 448– 449, 2013.

Tavrow, P., Withers, M., and McMullen, K. Age matters: Differential impact of service quality on contraceptive uptake among post-abortion clients in Kenya. Culture, Health and Sexuality, 14(8):849-62, 2012. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2012.700324. PMID: 22812449

Withers, M. and Browner, C. The changing context of fertility intentions: a longitudinal study from Bali, Indonesia. Culture, Health and Sexuality, 14(3):347-60, 2012. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2011.643825. PMID: 22192079

Withers, M; Tavrow, P; Abe, D. Who meets their intentions to stop childbearing?  Results of a longitudinal study in rural Eastern Bali, Indonesia. Health Care for Women International, 33(9): 814-832, 2012. doi: 10.1080/07399332.2011.585534. PMID: 22891741

Withers, M.; Tavrow, P.; Adinata, A. Do ambivalent women have an unmet need for family planning?  A longitudinal study from Bali, Indonesia. Women’s Health Issues, 21(6): 444-449, 2011. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2011.04.031. PMID: 21723743

Withers, M; Kano, M.; Pinatih, G.N. Desire for more children, contraceptive use and unmet need for family planning in a remote area of Bali, Indonesia. Journal of Biosocial Science. 42(4): 549-62, 2010. doi: 10.1017/S0021932010000052. PMID: 20202273

Withers, M; Dornig, K; Morisky, D.E. Predictors of Sexual Health Policy in Sex Establishments in the Philippines. AIDS Care, 19(8); 1020-1025, 2007. PMID: 17851999



Withers, M. Kenyan men’s fears about family planning. Atlas of Science. http://atlasofscience.org/kenyan-mens-fears-about-family-planning/#more-4773 2015.

Withers, M. Violence Against Women- What it truly is. United Nations I Am Woman Campaign.  http://www.empowerwomen.org/en/multimedia-center/iamwoman/think-pieces  2015.



Choudhury, S.M., Toller Erasquin, J., and Withers, M. (editors) Global Perspectives on Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Across the Lifespan. Springer Publishers, due out June 2017.