Daniel C. Cherkin, PhD

“We do patient-centered research to improve the process and outcomes of health care services for people with back pain.”

Daniel C. Cherkin, PhD

Senior Investigator (Emeritus), Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute

Biography

Dan Cherkin, PhD’s research is driven by the desire to find new ways to make medical care more healing. With chronic illness on the rise, he aims to show how primary care can evolve to more effectively deal with health problems that don't respond well to conventional treatments.

Dr. Cherkin’s approach represents a transformation of the way we think about health care delivery and centers around the question, "What paths to healing are absent from the typical primary care encounter?" He is dedicated to identifying ways to more effectively engage patients in healing activities through improved interactions with their physicians: ones which identify patients’ underlying needs and lead to treatment options that are most likely to meet these needs. He is especially interested in improving treatment for chronic conditions and is best known for his research on alternative therapies for back pain. He often collaborates with Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) investigator, Karen Sherman, PhD, to study therapies such as yoga, massage, and acupuncture. 

Dr. Cherkin is also committed to finding ways to optimize the  healing environment in primary care. An enhanced approach can only work when primary care providers’ own needs are supported by their work environment. To this end, he led a study aimed at bolstering awareness, communication, and team building among primary care staff as a way to foster mindful, patient-centered care. 

Dr. Cherkin provided nearly a decade of valuable service to KPWHRI as associate director for research from 1999–2008, with two years as acting director. He founded the International Forum for Primary Care Research on Low Back Pain in 1995 and he continues to chair its International Organizing Committee, which supports conferences every 18 months.

Appointed December 2010 by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Dr. Cherkin serves on the 2011–2014 National Advisory Council for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) within National Institutes of Health. He was appointed to the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)’s Advisory Panel for Improving Healthcare Systems Advisory Panel in 2013.

Dr. Cherkin has maintained two faculty appointments at the University of Washington since the 1980s and is now affiliate professor in both family medicine and health services.

Research Interests and Experience

  • Complementary & Integrative Health

    Healing in primary care; back pain and other musculoskeletal pain conditions; acupuncture; chiropractic care; massage; mindfulness meditation; tai chi; yoga; naturopathic medicine; integrative medicine

  • Chronic Illness Management

    Care for common chronic physical symptoms which lack specific diagnoses and/or effective treatments

  • Patient/Provider Interaction

    Effect of the therapeutic relationship and other contextual effects on patient outcomes

  • Health Services & Economics

    Role of complementary alternative medicine in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of health care services

Recent publications

Cherkin D, Balderson B, Wellman R, Hsu C, Sherman KJ, Evers SC, Hawkes R, Cook A, Levine MD, Piekara D, Rock P, Estlin KT, Brewer G, Jensen M, LaPorte AM, Yeoman J, Sowden G, Hill JC, Foster NE. Effect of Low Back Pain Risk-Stratification Strategy on Patient Outcomes and Care Processes: the MATCH Randomized Trial in Primary Care. LID - 10.1007/s11606-018-4468-9 [doi] J Gen Intern Med. 2018 May 22. pii: 10.1007/s11606-018-4468-9. doi: 10.1007/s11606-018-4468-9 [Epub ahead of print] PubMed

Cherkin DC. How can the intractable problem of chronic musculoskeletal pain (CMP) be effectively managed? the need for a well-integrated systems approach. J Gen Intern Med. 2018 Apr 9. pii: 10.1007/s11606-018-4362-5. doi: 10.1007/s11606-018-4362-5. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Kligler B, Bair MJ, Banerjea R, DeBar L, Ezeji-Okoye S, Lisi A, Murphy JL, Sandbrink F, Cherkin DC. Clinical policy recommendations from the VHA state-of-the-art conference on non-pharmacological approaches to chronic musculoskeletal pain. J Gen Intern Med. 2018 Apr 9. pii: 10.1007/s11606-018-4323-z. doi: 10.1007/s11606-018-4323-z. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Suri P, Delaney K, Rundell SD, Cherkin DC. Predictive validity of the STarTback tool for risk of persistent disabling back pain in a United States primary care setting. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2018 Apr 3. pii: S0003-9993(18)30204-1. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2018.02.016. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

 

KPWHRI In the Media

Study: Low-back pain relief with chiropractic care

Adding chiropractic to back pain care may reduce disability

Reuters (syndicated), May 21, 2018

Treating back pain

As back pain worsens around the world, what care should be avoided?

The Lancet Low Back Pain Series revealed what isn’t working in wealthier nations, writes Dr. Dan Cherkin. Low- and middle-income countries may take note.

Read about it in Healthy Findings

Back Pain Research

Integrative non-drug therapies treat back pain at reasonable cost

Kaiser Permanente researchers Drs. Daniel Cherkin, Karen Sherman, and Andrew Avins produced much of evidence in ICER report.

Read it in News and Events.

KPWHRI In the Media

Complementary & integrative health

Forget pills and surgery for back pain

Scientific American, Oct. 1, 2017

KPWHRI In the Media

Complementary and integrative health

Alternatives to drugs for treating pain

New York Times, Sep. 11, 2017

KPWHRI In the Media

Mindfulness meditation eases chronic low back pain

Computerized phone therapy might help curb back pain

Reuters, Apr. 3, 2017

video

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Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction vs Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Chronic Low Back Pain

(JAMA Network, 2:26)