Native health researcher Leslie Randall dies

Leslie Randall
Leslie L. Randall, then a doctoral student at the WSU College of Nursing, in 2016. 

Leslie Randall, PhD, MPH, RN, an alumna of the WSU College of Nursing and a member of the WSU Native American Health Sciences Tribal Advisory Board, died on March 1, leaving a legacy of service in public health.

Randall was a member of the Nez Perce Tribe and her research and scholarship focused on maternal-child health in Native communities. She had particular expertise in the field of Indigenous research, co-editing and authoring a collection of scholarly essays titled “Conducting Health Research with Native American Communities.”

“Leslie was among a handful of Native American or Indigenous nurse PhDs in the United States,” said Professor Janet Katz of the WSU College of Nursing, who was chair of Randall’s dissertation committee. Her death is “not only a loss of someone who was a leader, but also someone who was involved with people all over the country in Indigenous research. And she was also just a nice person – funny and very kind.”

Randall said last year that she grew up on the Nez Perce reservation until she was 15, then got a scholarship to St. Edward’s University in Texas.

“I didn’t survive there because I was so lonely. And that’s the story of a lot of our young people – they have family back on the reservation they are responsible for, they have family events they need to be there for, but the family can’t afford to bring them back. I dropped out of college and didn’t go back until I was in my 30s, when I was a single mother with two children under the age of 5, but I still managed to get my nursing degree from Oregon Health & Science University.”

She worked for the Indian Health Service and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. She graduated from the WSU College of Nursing with a PhD in 2018.

All along the way, Randall said she tried to mentor young people.

“I have… encouraged students to go as far as they can, then they can call their own shots. I often tried to catch the students when they were going into nursing school. I would talk with students who were ready to give up because it was hard. I often say, ‘Whatever it is, just keep going. Don’t stop getting your education.’”

Said Katz, “Overall, she was always looking to better the mental health and physical health of Native people.”

Randall’s family suggests that gifts in her memory may be directed to the WSU Native American Health Sciences Excellence Fund at: WSU Spokane, 412 E Spokane Falls Blvd, Spokane, WA 99202, Attn: Development Office. To make a memorial gift online, please visit