Portrait of Laura Otto-Salaj (white woman), Associate Professor Emerita

Laura Otto-Salaj

  • Associate Professor Emerita, Social Work

Dr. Laura Otto-Salaj received her doctorate in social psychology from Temple University. Prior to her position at UW-Milwaukee, she conducted HIV behavioral research at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Dr. Otto-Salaj was principal investigator of the Youth-Oriented Substance Abuse and Trauma Counseling (YOSAT) program, funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). This grant provided support for training MSW students in substance abuse counseling and trauma-informed care, and was a team effort involving Drs. Lisa Berger, Deb Padgett and Dimitri Topitzes, and Ms. Jeanne Wagner.

Dr. Otto-Salaj was the principal investigator of several studies on HIV behavioral risk funded by the National Institutes of Health, including: Stories To Tell (NIMH, NICHD, and NIDA), a prospective study which examined the intersection of substance use, sexual risk, trauma history, current victimization, and mental illness in disadvantaged African-American women; ARRIVE (NIMH), which examined the efficacy of an HIV-risk reduction intervention for adults with serious persistent mental illness and coexisting substance use issues; and HEART to HEART (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; NIAAA), which examined the efficacy of an HIV-risk reduction intervention combined with alcohol treatment for women with alcohol use disorders.


Ph.D., Social Psychology, Temple University, 1994
M.A., Social Psychology, Temple University, 1990
B.S., Psychology and Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1987

Research Interests:

  • The intersection of alcohol and other substance use with HIV sexual risk behaviors, especially for at-risk women.

Professional Work:

  • Grant Reviewer:
    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
    National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Professional Affiliations:

  • Research Society on Alcoholism
  • American Psychological Association Divisions 35 (Psychology of Women) and 38 (Health Psychology)
  • Society for Social Work and Research
  • Behavioral and Social Consequences of HIV/AIDS (BSCH) study section for the Center for Scientific Review