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

Boudreau DM, Chen L, Yu O, Bowles EJA, Chubak J. Risk of second breast cancer events with chronic opioid use in breast cancer survivors. Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2019 Apr 3. doi: 10.1002/pds.4779. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Whitman IR, Vittinghoff E, DeFilippi CR, Gottdiener JS, Alonso A, Psaty BM, Heckbert SR, Hoogeveen RC, Arking DE, Selvin E, Chen LY, Dewland TA, Marcus GM. NT-pro BNP as a mediator of the racial difference in incident atrial fibrillation and heart failure. J Am Heart Assoc. 2019;8(7):e010868. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.118.010868. PubMed

Bowles EJA, Yu O, Ziebell R, Chen L, Boudreau DM, Ritzwoller DP, Hubbard RA, Boggs JM, Burnett-Hartman AN, Sterrett A, Fujii M, Chubak J. Cardiovascular medication use and risks of colon cancer recurrences and additional cancer events: a cohort study. BMC Cancer. 2019;19(1):270. doi: 10.1186/s12885-019-5493-8. PubMed

Hechter RC, Horberg MA, Weisner C, Campbell CI, Contreras R, Chen LH, Yarborough BJH, Lapham GT, Haller IV, Ahmedani BK, Binswanger IA, Kline-Simon AH, Satre DD. Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) measures of alcohol and drug treatment initiation and engagement among people living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and patients without an HIV diagnosis. Subst Abus. 2019 Mar 25:1-9. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2019.1580239. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed


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