Kara Marie Kubiak Bensley, PhD MSc


Dr. Kara M.K. Bensley has a PhD in Public Health (Health Services) from the University of Washington and an MSc in Medical Anthropology from University College London. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at University of California, Berkeley and is an Associate Scientist at the Alcohol Research Group (Public Health Institute). Her research focuses on better understanding alcohol use, care, and outcomes in rural and other under-resourced communities. 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.


PhD in Health Services -- Public Health from University of Washington, MSc in Medical Anthropology from University College London

Publications List

  1. Bensley KM, Karriker-Jaffe K, Cherpitel C, Li L, Wallisch L, Zemore S. Spatially Accessibility as a Mediator for US-Mexico Border Effects on Alcohol Treatment Utilization among Mexican-Americans. In Press at Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, October 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsat.2020.108162
  2. Chen J, Glass JE, Goldberg SB, Bensley KMK, Williams EC. Racial/Ethnic and Gender Differences in Receipt of Brief Interventions among Patients with Unhealthy Alcohol Use in the US Veterans Health Administration. Journal of Studies of Alcohol and Drugs, 2020, 119, 108078. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsat.2020.108078
  3. Edmonds A, Bensley KM, Hawkins E, Williams EC. Initiation and Engagement in Alcohol-related Care across Rurality. Substance Use & Misuse, 2020, 21: 1-10, https://doi.org/10.1080/08897077.2020.1803176.
  4. Mulia N, Bensley KM. Alcohol-related Disparities among Women: Evidence and Potential Explanations. Alcohol Research: Clinical Reviews, 2020, Sep 3; 40(3):09. https://doi.org/ 10.35946/arcr.v40.2.09
  5. Bensley KM, Fortney J, Chan KG, Dombrowski J, 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 and Unhealthy Alcohol Use. Journal of Rural Health, 2019, 35(3):341-353
  6. Bensley KM, McGinnis KA, Fortney J, Chan G, Dombrowski JC, Ornelas I, Edelman EJ, Goulet J, Satre D, Justice AC, Fiellin D, Williams EC. Patterns of Alcohol Use across Urban, Large Rural, and Small Rural Areas among Veterans Living with HIV. Journal of Rural Health, 2019, 35(3):330-340
  7. Matson TE, McGinnis KA, Rubinsky AD, Frost MC, Czarnogorski M, Bryant KJ, Edelman EJ, Satre DD, Catz SL, Bensley KM, Fiellin DA, Justice AC, Williams EC. Gender and Alcohol Use: Influences on HIV Care Continuum in a National Cohort of Patients with HIV. AIDS, 2018, 32(15):2247–2253
  8. Bensley KM, Seelig AD, Armenta RF, Nagel AC, Peterson AV, Jacobson IG, Littman AJ, Maynard CC, Bricker JB, Boyko EJ, Williams EC. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptom Prediction of Risky and Problem Drinking Initiation. J Addiction Medicine, 2018, 12(5):353–362.
  9. Bensley KM, McGinnnis KA, Fiellin DA, Gordon AJ, Kraemer KL, Bryan KJ, Edelman EJ, Crystal S, Gaither JR, Korthuis PT, Marshall BDL, Ornelas IJ, Chan KCG, Dombrowski JC, Fortney JC, Justice AC, Williams EC. Racial/Ethnic Differences in the Association between Alcohol Use and Mortality among Men Living with HIV. Addiction Science & Clinical Practice. 2018; 13:2.
  10. Young JP, Bensley KM, Hawkins EJ, Achtmeyer CE, Williams EC. Differences in Perceptions and Practices Regarding Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorders Among VA Primary Care Providers in Urban and Rural Clinics. Journal of Rural Health, 2018, 34(4):359-368
  11. Bensley KM, Sox-Harris A, Gupta S, Jones-Webb R, Rubinsky AD, Glass J, and Williams EC. Racial/ethnic differences in Access to and Engagement with Specialty Addictions Treatment among patients with Alcohol Use Disorders in the Veterans Health Administration. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 2017; 73: 27-34.

Professional Memberships and Affiliations

Professional Service Roles

  • Board of Directors, Ttwaxt Indigenous Birth Justice Collaborative
  • Board of Directors, People’s Harm Reduction Alliance

Society Memberships

  • American Public Health Association
  • Research Society on Alcoholism
  • Washington Rural Health Association
  • Washington State Public Health Association
  • Interdisciplinary Association of Population Health Science


  • 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

Current projects/papers

  • Multiple substance use among rural suicide decedents
  • Neighborhood factors association with alcohol use disorder on the US-Mexico border
  • Access to health care in rural communities
Kara Bensley smiling
Kara Marie Kubiak Bensley PhD, MSc
Throughout my career in public health I have worked to promote health and prevent harm by both partnering with those in my community to improve local health issues and by conducting research using large national datasets to better understand and address complex health problems. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of public health has become increasingly visible. Public Health allows us to examine and address health issues for populations, extending the reach of interventions to beyond just individuals. Through Public Health, we promote health and prevent disease in families, communities, and society as a whole.