Kara Bensley

Ph.D., MSc

Kara Bensley Headshot

Department of Public Health

School of Natural Health Arts and Sciences



Public Health

Kara Bensley, Ph.D., MSc is currently an Assistant Professor in the Public Health Department at Bastyr University.


In addition to her role at Bastyr University, Dr. Kara M.K. Bensley is an Associate Scientist at the Alcohol Research Group (Public Health Institute). She is particularly interested in addressing systemic problems that perpetuate substance use-related harms. Broadly, her work examines access to evidence-based interventions that can mitigate harm and improve the lives of people who use alcohol or drugs in underserved communities. As an educator, her teaching and mentorship focuses on preparing public health professionals to do high-quality work to promote health equity and public health for all in our communities.


  • Ph.D. in Public Health (Health Services) from the University of Washington
  • MSc in Medical Anthropology from University College London 
  • Post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley

Awards & Honours

  • 2019 Exceptional Reviewer, The Journal of Rural Health
  • 2018 Professional Development Award, Berkeley Postdoctoral Association, Berkeley, CA
  • 2018 Junior Investigator Award, National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Research Society on Alcoholism, San Diego, CA
  • 2017 International Symposium on Hepatitis Care in Substance Users Travel Award, Jersey City, NJ
  • 2017 Society for Epidemiologic Research Student Travel Award, Seattle, WA
  • 2017 Department of Health Services Outstanding Doctoral Student Award, Seattle, WA.
  • 2016 Conference Scholarship, University of Washington Department of Health Services, Addictions Health Services Research Conference 2016, Seattle, WA
  • 2016 Student Merit Award, National Institute of Drug Abuse, Research Society on Alcoholism, New Orleans, LA

Professional affiliations

Board of Directors, Ttwaxt Indigenous Birth Justice Center
Associate Scientist, Alcohol Research Group (Public Health Institute)

Research philosophy

Dr. Bensley analyzes data from large national datasets to answer important questions about disparities in alcohol use, care, and outcomes. She has specific interests in rural alcohol treatment and the association between alcohol use and suicides and has received grants from the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute and the American Public Health Association to study these important topics.

Research Interests

  • Rural Health
  • Alcohol Use Disorder
  • Substance Use Treatment
  • ct Bensley KMK, Kerr WC, Barnett SB, Mulia N. Postmortem screening of opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol among rural and urban suicide decedents. J Rural Health. 2022 Jan;38(1):77-86. doi: 10.1111/jrh.12574. Epub 2021 Apr 5. PubMed PMID: 33817837; NIHMSID:NIHMS1755766.
  • Bensley KMK, Karriker-Jaffe KJ, Cherpitel C, Li L, Wallisch LS, Zemore SE. Limited treatment accessibility: Implications for alcohol treatment disparities among Mexican Americans living in the U.S.-Mexico border region. J Subst Abuse Treat. 2021 Feb;121:108162. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2020.108162. Epub 2020 Oct 9. PubMed PMID: 33172725; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC8459699.
  • ct 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 Jun;35(3):341-353. doi: 10.1111/jrh.12345. Epub 2019 Jan 31. PubMed PMID: 30703856; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6639081.