Karen J. Sherman, PhD, MPH


“My research looks for effective holistic therapies for back pain such as yoga and acupuncture. I want to help people with pain lead more active lives.”

Karen J. Sherman, PhD, MPH

Senior Investigator, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute


Karen J. Sherman, PhD, MPH, is an epidemiologist and clinical trialist. Her research interests include:

  • reducing the impact of chronic pain, especially spine pain;
  • evaluating complementary and integrative health (CIH) therapies;
  • building the evidence base for contextual factors related to care;
  • understanding and taking advantage of the relationship of spirituality and health; and
  • improving geriatric care.

She has led or participated in groundbreaking studies of various non-pharmacological therapies for chronic low back pain, including acupuncture, massage, meditation, and yoga.

Dr. Sherman has collaborated with investigators at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) and elsewhere across a range of disciplines, including clinical trials of CIH therapies for cancer, mood disorders, and menopause. Her work on building the evidence base for contextual factors related to care tries to find ways to bring greater healing into the primary care encounter. Dr. Sherman hopes her work will encourage more focus on the intricate connections between mind and body—and on helping patients seize the power of this connection to pursue better health and healing at all phases of life, including older age. Her work is rigorous, designed to answer practical questions, and intended to have impacts on the whole person.

Dr. Sherman is a senior scientific investigator at KPWHRI and an affiliate professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington (UW) School of Public Health. Her doctorate is in behavioral biology from Cornell University, and her MPH is in epidemiology from the UW. She has served as a reviewer for dozens of medical journals and granting institutions, and has sat on editorial boards for numerous CIH journals.

Research interests and experience

  • Patient/Provider Interaction

    Communication; patient expectations; patient  education


Recent publications

Daling JR, Sherman KJ. Vagina and vulva. In: Schottenfeld D, Fraumeni J (eds): Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention, Second Edition 1997.

Sherman KJ, Daling JR, McKnight B, Chu J. Hormonal factors in vulvar cancer. A case-control study. J Reprod Med. 1994;39(11):857-61. PubMed

Bairati I, Sherman KJ, McKnight B, Habel LA, Van den Eeden SK, Stergachis A, Daling JR. Diet and genital warts: a case-control study. Sex Transm Dis. 1994;21(3):149-54. PubMed

Maden C, Sherman KJ, Beckmann AM, Hislop TG, Teh CZ, Ashley RL, Daling JR. History of circumcision, medical conditions, and sexual activity and risk of penile cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1993;85(1):19-24. PubMed

Maden C, Beckmann AM, Thomas DB, McKnight B, Sherman KJ, Ashley RL, Corey L, Daling JR. Human papillomaviruses, herpes simplex viruses, and the risk of oral cancer in men. Am J Epidemiol. 1992;135(10):1093-102. PubMed

Mandelson MT, Jenison SA, Sherman KJ, Valentine JM, McKnight B, Daling JR, Galloway DA. The association of human papillomavirus antibodies with cervical cancer risk. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 1992;1(4):281-6. PubMed

Daling JR, Sherman KJ, Hislop TG, Maden C, Mandelson MT, Beckmann AM, Weiss NS. Cigarette smoking and the risk of anogenital cancer. Am J Epidemiol. 1992;135(2):180-9. PubMed

Daling JR, Madeleine MM, Sherman KJ, Beckmann AM, Hislop TG. Anogenital tumors associated with human papillomavirus. In: Fortner JG, Rhoads: Accomplishments in Cancer Research 1992. JP Lippincott Co, 1993:280-7.

Daling JR, Sherman KJ. Relation between human papillomavirus infection and tumors of the anogenital sites other than the cervix. In: Munoz N, Bosch FX: Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on HPV and cervical cancer. IARC 1992:223-41.

Beckmann AM, Sherman KJ, Saran L, Weiss NS. Genital-type human papillomavirus infection is not associated with surface epithelial ovarian carcinoma. Gynecol Oncol. 1991;43(3):247-51. PubMed




HEAL responds to double crisis: Opioids and COVID-19

Health care is increasingly online—KPWHRI is studying telehealth options for opioid use disorder and chronic pain.



Stopping the opioid epidemic: A KPWHRI priority

The latest on our research on chronic pain and opioids—and how the results influence health policy and clinical practice.

news release


NIH awards over $15 million in HEAL grants to KPWHRI

Drs. DeBar, Bradley, and Sherman lead projects in initiative to tackle opioid crisis.



Patient-doctor trust withstands opioid risk reduction

Risk-reduction initiative for chronic opioid therapy sustains patient-doctor trust, Dr. Karen Sherman finds.

KPWHRI in the Media

How effective is acupuncture for chronic back pain?

Acupuncture for lower back pain: Really?

AARP, Feb. 6, 2020