Lillie Williamson

Communication Science

Assistant Professor



6050 Vilas Hall

Current and Future Projects

  • Understanding and modeling communication-related antecedents of medical mistrust
  • Testing the effects of news stories about racial discrimination and medical racism on medical mistrust and health policy outcomes.
  • Examining shared trust between clinicians and patients
  • Investigating the relationships between medical mistrust and health/scientific misinformation

Expertise and Activities

My research broadly examines the ways in which racial experiences and health communication interact to influence racial health inequalities. More specifically, much of my work investigates the effects and interactions of communication within and outside the clinical context and medical mistrust, particularly for Black Americans. I approach this work grounded in three principles: a) medical mistrust is an adaptive response, b) my work is useless if it is not rooted in and reflective of lived experiences, and c) given the pervasiveness of racism and extraction, we must strive for more equitable research practices.

Past projects have investigated the antecedents of medical mistrust; the effects of exposure to vicarious racial discrimination (e.g., news stories about racial discrimination) on medical mistrust, and social support as a buffer to the effects of stressors, such as racial discrimination. As I build on this work, some of my current projects explore: communication about medical racism, the ways in which medical mistrust influences health information seeking, and shared trust between clinicians and patients.

Additionally, I am a Co-PI on an NSF-funded, 3-year mixed methods project that creates an ongoing dialogue with Black Wisconsin communities about science mistrust and misinformation. You can find out more information about that project here.

I am currently affiliate faculty in the Department of Psychology, the Center for Demography of Health and Aging, and the Institute for Diversity Science.


Ph.D. Communication, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2019

M.A. Communication, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2016

B.S. Biology, Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2011


Top Early Career Scholar Paper, Kentucky Conference on Health Communication, 2020

Selected Articles*

*Full list of articles, CV, and available accepted manuscripts are available on my personal website.

Medical Trust and Mistrust

Nah, S., Williamson, L.D., Upshaw, S., & Ntang Beb, J.-L., Kahlor, L.A., Atkinson, L. (2023). COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in Cameroon: The role of medical mistrust and social media use. Journal of Health Communication.

Nah, S., Williamson, L.D., Kahlor, L.A., Atkinson, L., Upshaw, S.J., & Ntang Beb, J.-L. (2023). The roles of social media use and medical mistrust in Black Americans’ COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy: The RISP model perspective. Health Communication.

Williamson, LD., & Prins, K. (2023). Uncertain and anxiously searching for answers: The roles of negative healthcare experiences and medical mistrust in intentions to seek information from online spaces. Health Communication. doi:10.1080/10410236.2023.2201976

Cafferty, L.A., Williamson, L.D., Jones, S., Anderson, L.N., Moore, J.X., Benson, R., Whisenant, E.B., Clinton, C., Lawson, N., & Ledford, C.J.W. (2023). How attributes of place threaten community trust in the American South: Opportunities for improving pandemic-related communication. Journal of Health Communication. doi:10.1080/10810730.2023.2187484

Williamson, L.D., Thompson, K.M., & Ledford, C.J.W. (2022). Trust takes two… Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. doi:10.3122/jabfm.2022.220126R1

Williamson, L.D., & Tarfa, A. (2022). Examining the relationships between trust in providers and information, mistrust, and COVID-19 vaccine concerns, necessity, and intentions. BMC Public Health. doi:10.1186/s12889-022-14399-9

Williamson, L.D. (2021). Testing vicarious experiences as antecedents of medical mistrust: A survey of Black and White Americans. Behavioral Medicine. doi:10.1080/08964289.2021.1958740

Williamson, L.D. (2021). Beyond personal experiences: Examining mediated vicarious experiences as an antecedent to medical mistrust. Health Communication. doi:10.1080/10410236.2020.1868744

Williamson, L.D., Smith, M.A., & Bigman, C.A. (2019). Does discrimination breed mistrust? Examining the role of mediated and non-mediated discrimination experiences in medical mistrust. Journal of Health Communication, 24, 791-799. doi:10.1080/10810730.2019.1669742

Williamson, L.D., & Bigman, C.A. (2018). A systematic review of medical mistrust measures. Patient Education & Counseling, 101, 1786-1794. doi:10.1016/j.pec.2018.05.007

Collaborations on Equity and Inclusive Research

Moore, J.X., Anderson, L.N., Li, C., Benson, R.D., Garcia Rychtarikova, A., Williamson, L.D., Wolf, L.E., Whisenant, E.B., Roark, E., Jones, S.R., & Ledford, C.J.W. (2023). Toward equitable payment for inclusive participation. Journal of Clinical and Translational Science. doi:10.1017/cts.2023.5

Fox, J., Pearce, K.E., Massanari, A.L., Riles, J.M., Szulc, L., Ranjit, Y., Trevisan, F., Soriano, C.R.R., Vitak, J., Payal, A., Ahn, S.J., Alper, M., Gambino, A., Gonzalez, C., Lynch, T., Williamson, L.D., & Gonzales, A.L. (2021). Open science, closed doors? Countering marginalization through an agenda for ethical, inclusive research in communication. Journal of Communication. doi:10.1093/joc/jqab029


  • CA 318 – Introduction to Health Communication
  • CA 518 – Communication and Health Inequalities
  • CA 612 – Race and Health Communication
  • CA 970 – (Mis)Trust in Health Communication