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 Executive Faculty at the Program of Excellence in Addictions Research (PEAR). He is also a biostatistician at Providence Medical Research Center at Providence Health Care. He has secured more than $21 million in grants and contracts (12 active, 27 completed) as PI or Co-I from NIH and 10 other agencies, and is involved in multiple research projects ranging from basic human laboratory toxicology experiments to health policy and economics. His own research focuses on combined behavioral-pharmacotherapeutic treatment development for co-morbid tobacco smoking and alcohol/stimulant addiction. In addition, he is examining the nexus of kidney disease progression and non-traditional behavioral risk factors (e.g., drug and alcohol use, mental illness). He is a Co-I for the Pacific Northwest Node of the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network and PI of the Research Methods Core for the NIH-funded Collaborative Action Toward Community Health (CATCH) center of excellence wherein his primary role is to oversee the management, design, and analysis of 3 randomized controlled trials. Dr. McPherson has published over 45 peer-reviewed research articles on various topics, all related to drug/alcohol use, psychopharmacology, and kidney disease. He is a reviewer for the NIH and 4 other sponsors, and is on the editorial board for Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. He has reviewed for more than 18 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. 7 NIH institutes/centers (NIAAA, NIDA, NIA, NHLBI, NIDDK, NIMHD, NCATS), 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, Providence Health Care, 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 nephrology, and 3) Drug/alcohol use disorders as a co-morbidity of psychiatric disorders and kidney disease.


  • Smoking Special Interest Group, National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network, 2015-present
  • 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 46 total)

McPherson, S., Brooks, O., Barbosa-Leiker, C., Lederhos, C., Lamp, A., Murphy, S., Layton, M., & Roll, J. (in press). Examining stimulant use and attendance as parallel treatment outcomes in two contingency management clinical trials. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.

McDonell, M. G., Skalisky, J., Leickly, E., McPherson, S., Battalio, S., Nepom, J. R., Srebnik, D., Roll, J., Ries, R. (in press). Using ethyl glucuronide to detect light and heavy drinking in alcohol dependence outpatients. Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Gorelick, D., & McPherson, S., (in press). Improving the analysis and modeling of substance use data. American Journal of Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

Mamey, M. R., Barbosa-Leiker, C., McPherson, S., Burns, G. L., Parks, C., & Roll, J. (in press). An application of analyzing the trajectories of two disorders: A parallel piecewise growth model of substance and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology.

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.

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.

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.

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