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

Williams EC, McGinnis KA, Tate JP, Matson TE, Rubinsky AD, Bobb JF, Lapham GT, Edelman EJ, Catz SL, Satre DD, Bryant KJ, Marshall BDL, Kraemer KL, Bensley KM, Richards JE, Skanderson M, Justice AC, Fiellin DA, Bradley KA. HIV disease severity is sensitive to temporal changes in alcohol use: a national study of VA patients with HIV. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2019 Apr 6. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000002049. [Epub ahead of print]. 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

Bensley KM, Fortney J, Chan G, Dombrowski JC, Ornelas I, Rubinsky AD, Lapham GT, Glass JE, Williams EC. Differences in receipt of alcohol-related care across rurality among VA patients living with HIV with unhealthy alcohol use. J Rural Health. 2019 Jan 31. doi: 10.1111/jrh.12345. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Campbell CI, Weisner C, Binswanger IA, Lapham GT, Ahmedani BK, Yarborough BJH, Haller IV, Altschuler A, Hechter RC, Loree AM, Kline-Simon AH. Predictors of Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) treatment initiation and engagement among patients with opioid use disorder across 7 health systems. Subst Abus. 2019 Jan 24:1-7. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2018.1545729. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed


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