College of Nursing

Sterling McPherson

Sterling McPherson

Assistant Professor
Sterling McPherson
Assistant Professor
(509) 324-7459
(509) 324-7341
WSU College of Nursing
PO Box 1495
Spokane, WA 99210-1495

Sterling McPherson is an Assistant Professor and Director of the Program of Excellence in Addictions Research (PEAR). Dr. McPherson has secured more than $19 million in grants and contracts (12 active, 23 completed) as PI or Co-I from NIH and 10 other agencies, and is involved in multiple research projects ranging from basic human toxicology to addiction-related health economics. His research focuses on combined behavioral-pharmacotherapeutic treatment development for co-morbid tobacco smoking and alcohol/stimulant addiction. In addition, he is part of a team examining the nexus of kidney disease progression, mental illness, and drug and alcohol use. He is also a Co-I for the Pacific Northwest Node of the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network (CTN; Co-PIs, Donovan and Roll). In addition, he is the Program Director for the (P20, NIH-funded) Collaborative Action Toward Community Health (CATCH) center of excellence wherein his primary role is to oversee the management of 3 randomized controlled trials in addition to co-leading the Research Methods Core of this center. Dr. McPherson has published over 40 peer-reviewed research articles on various topics, all related to mental illness, psychopharmacology, and drug/alcohol use. He is a reviewer for NIH and 4 other sponsors. He is also a consulting editor for Psychology of Addictive Behaviors and has reviewed for more than a dozen other journals including Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, and the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. Dr. McPherson is an NIH Fellow of the Summer Institute on Randomized Clinical Trials. NIH, NSF, CDC, Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Affairs, Life Sciences Discovery Fund, American Beverage Association, Community Pharmacy Association, Center for Advancing Longitudinal Drug Abuse Research, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Program, and the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation have funded his work.


  • Postdoctoral Fellow (Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse), Washington State University, Spokane, WA
  • PhD in Experimental Psychology, Washington State University, Pullman, WA
  • MS in Experimental Psychology, Washington State University, Pullman, WA
  • BA in Psychology (with honors), Whitworth University, Spokane, WA
  • BA in Sociology (with honors), Whitworth University, Spokane, WA



1) Development of evidence-based drug/alcohol use disorder treatments, 2) Innovative analytical methods to answer novel research questions in psychopharmacology and drug/alcohol use, and 3) Drug/alcohol use disorders as a complicating co-morbidity of other health conditions.


  • College of Problems on Drug Dependence, 2013-present
  • Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse (APA Division 28), 2012-present
  • Addictions (APA Division 50), 2012 - present
  • Design and Analysis Special Interest Group, National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network, 2012-present
  • Evaluation, Measurement, Statistics (APA Division 5), 2010-present


  • National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Program Awardee, Clinical Research (National Institute of Drug Abuse/National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism), August 2014
  • National Institutes of Health Fellow, Summer Institute on Randomized Clinical Trials, Sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research (OBSSR), July 2014
  • Associated Students of Washington State University Spokane, Student’s Choice Award for Faculty Excellence, 2012
  • Early Career Travel Award, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and the American Psychological Association (APA) Divisions 28 (Psychopharmacology and Drug Abuse) and 50 (Addictions), 2012
  • Graduate Student Excellence Award, awarded by the Department of Psychology at Washington State University

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS (selected from over 40)

Barbosa-Leiker, C., McPherson, S., Mamey, M. R., Burns, G. L., Layton, M., & Roll, J. (in press). Examining the factor structure of the Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale: A secondary data analysis from the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network (CTN) 0003. Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Lowe, J., Leickly, E., Angelo, F. A., Vilardaga, R., McPherson, S., Srebnik, D., Roll, J., Ries, R. K., & McDonell, M. G. (in press). Low ethyl glucuronide immunoassay thresholds accurately detect self-reported alcohol consumption when conducted in an outpatient addiction treatment clinic. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Leikly, E., Vilardaga, R., Angelo, F. A., Lowe, J. M., McPherson, S., Srebnik, D., Ries, R. K., & McDonell, M G. (in press). High levels of agreement between clinic-based ethyl glucuronide immunoassays and laboratory-based mass spectrometry. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

McPherson, S., & Barbosa-Leiker, C. (2015). Biomarker classification derived from finite growth mixture modeling with a time-varying covariate: An example using serum phosphorus and estimated glomerular filtration rate. Journal of Applied Statistics, 42, 409-427.

Murphy, S., Dweik, D., McPherson, S., & Roll, J. (2014). Association between hepatitis C virus and opioid use while in buprenorphine treatment: Preliminary findings. The American Journal of Drug And Alcohol Abuse, 41, 88-92.

McPherson, S., Barbosa-Leiker, C., Mamey, M. R., McDonell, M., Roll, J., & Enders, C. K. (2014). A ‘missing not at random’ (MNAR) and ‘missing at random’ (MAR) growth model comparison with a buprenorphine/naloxone clinical trial. Addiction. 110, 51-58.

McPherson, S., Barbosa-Leiker, C., Daratha, K., Short, R., McDonell, M., Alicic, R., Roll, J. M., & Tuttle, K. (2014). Association of co-occurring mental Illness with emergency re-hospitalization in people with chronic kidney disease. American Journal of Nephrology, 39, 260-267.

McPherson, S., Packer, R., Cameron, J., Howell, D. & Roll, J. (2014). Biochemical predictors are better than self-report in a smoking cessation contingency management analog study. The American Journal on Addictions, 23, 15-20.

McDonell, M., McPherson, S., Vilardaga, R., Srebnik, D., Angelo, F., Leickly, E., Roll, J., & Reis, R. (2014). Preliminary findings: The effect of contingency management for psycho-stimulant use on smoking abstinence in a sample of adults with severe mental illness. The American Journal on Addictions, 23, 407-410.

McPherson, S., Barbosa-Leiker, C., McDonell, M., Howell, D., & Roll, J. (2013). Longitudinal missing data strategies for substance use clinical trials using generalized estimating equations: An example with a buprenorphine/naloxone trial. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 28, 506-515.

Roll, J. M., Chudzynski, J., Cameron, J., Howell, D., & McPherson, S. (2013). Duration effects in contingency management treatment of methamphetamine disorders. Addictive Behaviors, 38, 2455-2462.

McDonell, M. G., Srebnik, D., Angelo, F., McPherson, S., Lowe, J. Sugar, A., Coblentz, P., Short, R., Roll, J. M., & Reis, R. K. (2013). A randomized controlled trial of contingency management for psycho-stimulant use in community health outpatients with co-occurring serious mental illness. American Journal of Psychiatry, 170, 94-101.

McPherson, S., Barbosa-Leiker, C., & Short, R. & Tuttle, K. R. (2012). Classification of chronic kidney disease biomarkers to predict coronary artery calcium. Kidney and Blood Pressure Research, 36, 26-35.

Daratha, K. B., Barbosa-Leiker, C., Burley, M., Short, R., Layton, M., McPherson, S., Dyck, D., McFarland, B. & Tuttle, K. (2012). Co-occurring mood disorders among hospitalized patients and risk for subsequent medical hospitalization. General Hospital Psychiatry, 34, 500-505.

Roll, J., Newton, T., Chudzynski, J., Cameron, J., McPherson, S., Fong, T., & Torrington, M. (2012). Preference for gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) in current users. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 97, 323-331.

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