Kara Marie Kubiak Bensley, PhD MSc

Current Role

Department of Public Health | Assistant Professor


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

Bensley KMK, Kerr WC, Barnett SB, Mulia N. Postmortem
Screening of Opioids, Benzodiazepines, and Alcohol among Rural
and Urban Suicide Decedents. Journal of Rural Health, Early view
April 2021. https://doi.org/10.1111/jrh.12574

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. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 2021,
121: 102-162. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsat.2020.

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.

Kaplan MS, Kerr WC, McFarland BH, Bensley K, Caetano R,
Giesbrecht N, Monnat SM, Nolte KB. Letter to the Editor of the
Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs Re: Alcohol Policy and
Coronavirus: An Open Research Agenda Journal of Studies on
Alcohol and Drugs, 2020, 81(5): 687-688.

Edmonds A, Bensley KM, Hawkins E, Williams EC. Initiation and
Engagement in Alcohol-related Care across Rurality. Substance Use
& Misuse, 2020, 21: 1-10,

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/

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

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

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

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
School of Natural Health Arts & Sciences
Department of Public Health
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.