Gwen Lapham, PhD, MPH

"My colleagues and I are working on ways to ensure that people who are at risk for unhealthy alcohol use receive the most effective care that is right for them."

Gwen Lapham, PhD, MPH, MSW

Assistant Investigator, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute

Areas of focus:


Screening patients for high-risk behaviors such as unhealthy alcohol use is a foundation of good preventive care. But how often and in what form does such screening work best? KPWHRI Assistant Investigator Gwen Lapham, PhD, MPH, MSW, is on a mission to find out.

Dr. Lapham joined the Institute as a research associate in 2013 after six years as the senior project director and data analyst for the Alcohol Misuse Workgroup at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Puget Sound Health Care System, Department of Health Services Research & Development. Working with her longtime VA mentor Katherine Bradley, MD, MPH, now a KPWHRI senior investigator, Dr. Lapham is shedding  light on practical strategies to make screening for alcohol misuse more  efficient and effective.

Most patients screen negative for unhealthy alcohol use during  in-person assessments—and until recently, little was known about the optimal  intervals and methods for repeat screening of these patients. But by delving  into the VA’s rich data on routine alcohol screening, Dr. Lapham and colleagues  are starting to identify the sweet spot—the point at which the value gained from repeat screening outweighs the resources necessary to conduct screening and follow-up on positive screens. Publishing in Medical Care in October 2013, they found that extending the screening interval was appropriate for certain low-risk veterans.

Previously, Dr. Lapham demonstrated that the VA’s effort to implement brief interventions for unhealthy alcohol use in more than 900 clinics nationwide led to increases in provider-documented brief interventions. She also found that recently returned Veterans need information on the importance of recommended drinking limits and may be more willing to honestly report their alcohol use when it’s not documented in their medical record.

Moving forward, Dr. Lapham is pursuing work to implement evidence-based and patient-centered care for unhealthy alcohol use in other settings. A recipient of the University of Washington (UW) School of Public Health 2012 Outstanding Graduate Student Award, she currently serves as a member of the Research Society on Alcoholism and is part of the UW’s Health Services Professional Development Group. She was promoted to assistant investigator at KPWHRI in 2018. 





Recent publications

Glass JE, Bobb JF, Lee AK, Richards JE, Lapham GT, Ludman E, Achtmeyer C, Caldeiro RM, Parrish R, Williams EC, Lozano P, Bradley KA. Study protocol: a cluster-randomized trial implementing Sustained Patient-centered Alcohol-related Care (SPARC trial). Implement Sci. 2018;13(1):108. doi: 10.1186/s13012-018-0795-9. PubMed

Lapham GT, Lee AK, Caldeiro RM, Glass JE, Carrell DS, Richards JE, Bradley KA. Prevalence of behavioral health conditions across frequency of cannabis use among adult primary care patients in Washington state. J Gen Intern Med. 2018 Jul 10. pii: 10.1007/s11606-018-4558-8. doi: 10.1007/s11606-018-4558-8. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Williams EC, McGinnis KA, Edelman EJ, Matson TE, Gordon AJ, Marshall BDL, Bryant KJ, Rubinsky AD, Lapham GT, Satre DD, Richards JE, Catz SL, Fiellin DA, Justice AC, Bradley KA. Level of alcohol use associated with HIV care continuum targets in a national U.S. sample of persons living with HIV receiving healthcare. AIDS Behav. 2018 Jul 9. pii: 10.1007/s10461-018-2210-6. doi: 10.1007/s10461-018-2210-6. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Williams EC, McGinnis KA, Bobb JF, Rubinsky AD, Lapham GT, Skanderson M, Catz SL, Bensley KM, Richards JE, Bryant KJ, Edelman EJ, Satre DD, Marshall BDL, Kraemer KL, Blosnich JR, Crystal S, Gordon AJ, Fiellin DA, Justice AC, Bradley KA. Changes in alcohol use associated with changes in HIV disease severity over time: a national longitudinal study in the Veterans Aging Cohort. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2018 May 24;189:21-29. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2018.04.022.[Epub ahead of print]. PubMed


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