Lu Chen, PhD, MPH

“My goal is to help people make informed decisions about which medications are safe, especially for those who are most vulnerable including pregnant women and cancer patients.”

Lu Chen, PhD, MPH

Assistant Investigator, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute


Lu Chen, PhD, is an assistant investigator with Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) who works to improve medication safety, cancer survivorship, and maternal and child health. Her methodological research focuses on using administrative and electronic medical record (EMR) data from various sources for epidemiologic research. 

For example, she has worked with “big data” from national sources, such as the National Cancer Institute’s SEER-Medicare Database. She has also worked with administrative data from Optum (a large national health insurer), as well as rich EMR data from Kaiser Permanente Washington.  By analyzing these real-world data, Dr. Chen studies how common prescription medications affect risk of adverse cancer and pregnancy outcomes.  

With various treatment options available for many common conditions, choosing the right treatment according to an individual’s health priorities and health conditions is not easy. The goal of her research is to provide patients and clinicians better information regarding benefits and risks of different treatments to help them make informed decisions. 

Dr. Chen joined KPWHRI in September 2016 as a postdoctoral fellow. During her 2-year fellowship, she contributed to several large studies evaluating treatment and other interventions during pregnancy, such as treatment for pregnant women with hypertension and screening for gestational diabetes. She also collaborated with cancer researchers at KPWHRI to study outcomes and patterns associated with opioid use in breast and colon cancer survivors.  

Before joining KPWHRI, Dr. Chen completed her PhD in epidemiology at the University of Washington, where she worked with cancer epidemiologists to improve understanding of risk factors, survivorship, and health disparities related to breast cancer. Dr. Chen received her master's in public health from the University of Maryland, where her work focused on cultural facilitators and barriers in cancer prevention and survivorship for Asian Americans.


  • Medication Use & Patient Safety

    Medication safety and effectiveness in vulnerable populations including pregnant women and cancer patients; Pharmaco-epidemiology; observational study research methods

  • Cancer

    Breast cancer epidemiology and survivorship, quality of life, effect of commonly used medications on cancer risk and outcomes, health disparities in cancer risk and survival


Recent publications

Chen L, Pocobelli G, Yu O, Shortreed SM, Osmundson SS, Fuller S, Wartko PD, McCulloch D, Warwick S, Newton KM, Dublin S. Early pregnancy hemoglobin A1C and pregnancy outcomes: a population-based study. Am J Perinatol. 2018 Nov 30. doi: 10.1055/s-0038-1675619. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Chubak J, Yu O, Ziebell RA, Bowles EJA, Sterrett AT, Fujii MM, Boggs JM, Burnett-Hartman AN, Boudreau DM, Chen L, Floyd JS, Ritzwoller DP, Hubbard RA. Risk of colon cancer recurrence in relation to diabetes. Cancer Causes Control. 2018 Sep 22. pii: 10.1007/s10552-018-1083-3. doi: 10.1007/s10552-018-1083-3. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Pocobelli G, Yu O, Fuller S, Fraser JR, Wartko P, Chen L, Newton K, Dimer J, McCulloch D, Warwick S, Dublin S. One-step approach to identifying gestational diabetes mellitus: association with perinatal outcomes. Obstet Gynecol. 2018 Aug 17. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000002780. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Chen L, Chubak J, Boudreau DM, Barlow WE, Weiss NS, Li CI. Diabetes treatments and risks of adverse breast cancer outcomes among early stage breast cancer patients: a SEER-Medicare analysis. Cancer Res. 2017 Nov 1;77(21):6033-6041. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-17-0687. Epub 2017 Sep 21. PubMed


latest News

How should we screen for gestational diabetes?

In our learning health system, we discovered that a new screening approach had increased diagnoses without improving overall outcomes. So remarkably, we switched back.

Read it in Healthy Findings.

Feature Story

Treating hypertension in pregnancy: What’s the best way?

A KPWHRI study by Dr. Sascha Dublin uses data from pregnant women’s experiences to find out the risks and benefits of taking high blood pressure medicine. outline.

Read about it in News and Events.