Karen J. Sherman, PhD, MPH

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“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

Biography

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

Vickers AJ, Vertosick EA, Lewith G, MacPherson H, Foster NE, Sherman KJ, Irnich D, Witt CM, Linde K. Acupuncture for chronic pain: update of an individual patient data meta-analysis. J Pain. 2018 May;19(5):455-474. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2017.11.005. Epub 2017 Dec 2. PubMed

Thakral M, Walker RL, Saunders K, Shortreed SM, Parchman M, Hansen RN, Ludman E, Sherman KJ, Dublin S, Von Korff M. Comparing pain and depressive symptoms of chronic opioid therapy patients receiving dose reduction and risk mitigation initiatives to usual care. J Pain. 2018 Jan;19(1):111-120. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2017.09.006. Epub 2017 Oct 13. PubMed

Evers S, Hsu C, Sherman KJ, Balderson B, Hawkes R, Brewer G, La Porte AM, Yeoman J, Cherkin D. Patient perspectives on communication with primary care providers about chronic low back pain.  Perm J. 2017;21. doi: 10.7812/TPP/16-177. PubMed

Huhdanpaa HT, Tan WK, Rundell SD, Suri P, Chokshi FH, Comstock BA, Heagerty PJ, James KT, Avins AL, Nedeljkovic SS, Nerenz DR, Kallmes DF, Luetmer PH, Sherman KJ, Organ NL, Griffith B, Langlotz CP, Carrell D, Hassanpour S, Jarvik JG. Using natural language processing of free-text radiology reports to identify type 1 modic endplate changes. J Digit Imaging. 2017 Aug 14. doi: 10.1007/s10278-017-0013-3. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Herman PM, Anderson ML, Sherman KJ, Balderson BH, Turner JA, Cherkin DC. Cost-effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction vs cognitive behavioral therapy or usual care among adults with chronic low-back pain. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2017 Jul 24. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0000000000002344. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Von Korff M, Walker RL, Saunders K, Shortreed SM, Thakral M, Parchman M, Hansen RN, Ludman E, Sherman KJ, Dublin S. Prevalence of prescription opioid use disorder among chronic opioid therapy patients after health plan opioid dose and risk reduction initiatives. Int J Drug Policy. 2017 Jun 27;46:90-98. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2017.05.053. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Saper RB, Lemaster C, Delitto A, Sherman KJ, Herman PM, Sadikova E, Stevans J, Keosaian JE, Cerrada CJ, Fernia AL, Roseen EJ, Gardiner P, Gergen-Barnett K, Faulkner C, Weinberg J. Yoga, physical therapy, or education for chronic low back pain: a randomized noninferiority trial. Ann Intern Med. 2017 Jun 20. doi: 10.7326/M16-2579. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

MacPherson H, Vertosick EA, Foster NE, Lewith G, Linde K, Sherman KJ, Witt CM, Vickers AJ. The persistence of the effects of acupuncture after a course of treatment: a meta-analysis of patients with chronic pain. Pain. 2017 May;158(5):784-793. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000747. PubMed

Cherkin DC, Anderson ML, Sherman KJ, Balderson BH, Cook AJ, Hansen KE, Turner JA. Two-year follow-up of a randomized clinical trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction vs cognitive behavioral therapy or usual care for chronic low back pain. JAMA. 2017;317(6):642-644. doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.17814. PubMed

Turner JA, Anderson ML, Balderson BH, Cook AJ, Sherman KJ, Cherkin DC. Mindfulness-based stress reduction and cognitive-behavioral therapy for chronic low back pain: similar effects on mindfulness, catastrophizing, self-efficacy, and acceptance in a randomized controlled trial. Pain. 2016 Nov;157(11):2434-2444.doi:10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000635. PubMed

 

Research

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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.

research

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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

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NIH awards over $15 million in HEAL grants to KPWHRI

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

opioids

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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