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

Research Associate, 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 Research Associate Gwen Lapham is on a  mission to find out.

Dr. Lapham joined the Institute 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.     





Recent publications

Williams EC, Lapham GT, Shortreed SM, Rubinsky AD, Bobb JF, Bensley KM, Catz SL, Richards JE, Bradley KA. Among patients with unhealthy alcohol use, those with HIV are less likely than those without to receive evidence-based alcohol-related care: a national VA study. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2017 Mar 6;174:113-120. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.01.018. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Bradley KA, Rubinsky AD, Lapham GT, Berger D, Bryson C, Achtmeyer C, Hawkins EJ, Chavez LJ, Williams EC, Kivlahan DR. Predictive validity of clinical AUDIT-C alcohol screening scores and changes in scores for three objective alcohol-related outcomes in a Veterans Affairs (VA) population. Addiction. 2016 Nov;111(11):1975-1984. doi: 10.1111/add.13505. Epub 2016 Aug 2. PubMed

Grossbard J, Malte CA, Lapham G, Pagulayan K, Turner AP, Rubinsky AD, Bradley KA, Saxon AJ, Hawkins EJ. Prevalence of alcohol misuse and follow-up care in a national sample of OEF/OIF VA patients with and without TBI. Psychiatr Serv. 2016 Aug 1:appips201500290. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Chavez LJ, Williams EC, Lapham GT, Rubinsky AD, Kivlahan DR, Bradley KA. Changes in patient-reported alcohol-related advice following veterans health administration implementation of brief alcohol interventions. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2016 May;77(3):500-8. PubMed


healthy findings blog

Is hospital readmission linked to alcohol use and social factors?

Drs. Katharine Bradley and Gwen Lapham studied drinking habits and hospital readmission. They found that underlying social determinants might be the connection.

Read it in Healthy Findings.