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

  • Complementary & Integrative Health

    Utilization; role of complementary and alternative medicine in health care; acupuncture; massage; meditation; tai chi; yoga; fibromyalgia; menopause; back pain; neck pain; anxiety disorders

  • Chronic Illness Management

    Chronic back pain; diabetes care; self-management

  • Mental Health

    Alternative therapies for anxiety disorders

  • Women's Health

    Alternative therapies for menopause

  • Patient/Provider Interaction

    Communication; patient expectations; patient  education

 

Recent publications

Colgan D, Green K, Eddy A, Brems C, Sherman KJ, Cramer H, Oken B, Christopher M. Translation, cross-cultural adaptation, and psychometric validation of the English version of the postural awareness scale. Pain Med. 2021 Jul 7:pnab200. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnab200. Online ahead of print. PubMed

Bresnahan BW, Jarvik JG, Meier EN, James KT, Gold LS, Rundell SD, Turner JA, Suri P, Luetmer PH, Friedly JL, Sherman KJ, Heagerty PJ, Kallmes DF, Avins AL, Griffith BD, Kessler LG. Expected organizational costs for inserting prevalence information into lumbar spine imaging reports. J Am Coll Radiol. 2021 Jun 30:S1546-1440(21)00480-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jacr.2021.06.010. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Suri P, Meier EN, Gold LS, Marcum ZA, Johnston SK, James KT, Bresnahan BW, O'Reilly M, Turner JA, Kallmes DF, Sherman KJ, Deyo RA, Luetmer PH, Avins AL, Griffith B, Heagerty PJ, Rundell SD, Jarvik JG, Friedly JL. Providing epidemiologic data in lumbar spine imaging reports did not affect subsequent utilization of spine procedures: secondary outcomes from a stepped-wedge randomized controlled trial. Pain Med. 2021 Feb 17:pnab065. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnab065. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Marcum ZA, Gold LS, James KT, Meier EN, Turner JA, Kallmes DF, Cherkin DC, Deyo RA, Sherman KJ, Luetmer PH, Avins AL, Griffith B, Friedly JL, Suri P, Heagerty PJ, Jarvik JG. Effects of including epidemiologic data in lumbar spine imaging reports on prescribing non-opioid medications for pain. J Gen Intern Med. 2021 Feb 8. doi: 10.1007/s11606-021-06627-6. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Nielsen A, Ocker L, Majd I, Draisin JA, Taromina K, Maggenti MT, Long J, Nolting M, Sherman KJ. Acupuncture intervention protocol: consensus process for a pragmatic randomized controlled trial of acupuncture for management of chronic low back pain in older adults: an NIH HEAL initiative funded project. Glob Adv Health Med. 2021 May 26;10:21649561211007091. doi: 10.1177/21649561211007091. eCollection 2021. PubMed

Roseen EJ, Purtle J, Zhang W, Miller DW, Schwartz AW, Ramanadhan S, Sherman KJ. The intersection of dissemination research and acupuncture: applications for chronic low back pain. Glob Adv Health Med. 2021 May 24;10:2164956120980694. doi: 10.1177/2164956120980694. eCollection 2021. PubMed

Vickers AJ, Vertosick EA, Lewith G, MacPherson H, Foster NE, Sherman KJ, Irnich D, Witt CM, Linde K. Do the effects of acupuncture vary between acupuncturists? analysis of the acupuncture trialists' collaboration individual patient data meta-analysis. Acupunct Med. 2020 Dec 10:964528420959089. doi: 10.1177/0964528420959089. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Jarvik JG, Meier EN, James KT, Gold LS, Tan KW, Kessler LG, Suri P, Kallmes DF, Cherkin DC, Deyo RA, Sherman KJ, Halabi SS, Comstock BA, Luetmer PH, Avins AL, Rundell SD, Griffith B, Friedly JL, Lavallee DC, Stephens KA, Turner JA, Bresnahan BW, Heagerty PJ. The effect of including benchmark prevalence data of common imaging findings in spine image reports on health care utilization among adults undergoing spine imaging: a stepped-wedge randomized clinical trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2020 Sep 1;3(9):e2015713. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.15713. PubMed

Roseen EJ, Gerloven H, Felson DT, Delitto A, Sherman KJ, Saper RB. Which chronic low back pain patients respond favorably to yoga, physical therapy, and a self-care book? responder analyses from a randomized controlled trial. Pain Med. 2020 Jul 14. pii: pnaa153. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnaa153. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Foster NE, Vertosick EA, Lewith G, Linde K, MacPherson H, Sherman KJ, Witt CM, Vickers AJ. Identifying patients with chronic pain who respond to acupuncture: results from an individual patient data meta-analysis. Acupunct Med. 2021 Apr;39(2):83-90. doi: 10.1177/0964528420920303. Epub 2020 Jun 22. 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