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

  • 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

Sherman KJ, Daling JR, Chu J, Weiss NS, Ashley RL, Corey L. Genital warts, other sexually transmitted diseases, and vulvar cancer. Epidemiology. 1991;2(4):257-62. PubMed

Beckmann AM, Sherman KJ, Myerson D, Daling JR, McDougall JK, Galloway DA. Comparative virologic studies of condylomata acuminata reveal a lack of dual infections with human papillomaviruses. J Infect Dis. 1991;163(2):393-6. PubMed

Sherman KJ, Daling JR, Stergachis A, Weiss NS, Foy HM, Wang SP, Grayston JT. Sexually transmitted diseases and tubal pregnancy. Sex Transm Dis. 1990;17(3):115-21. PubMed

Beckmann AM, Daling JR, Sherman KJ, Maden C, Miller BA, Coates RJ, Kiviat NB, Myerson D, Weiss NS, Hislop TG, Beagrie M, McDougall JK. Human papillomavirus infection and anal cancer. Int J Cancer. 1989;43(6):1042-9. PubMed

Sherman KJ, Daling JR, Chu J, McKnight B, Weiss NS. Multiple primary tumours in women with vulvar neoplasms: a case-control study. Br J Cancer. 1988;57(4):423-7. PubMed

Beckmann AM, Kiviat NB, Daling JR, Sherman KJ, McDougall JK. Human papillomavirus type 16 in multifocal cancers of the female genital tract. Int J Gynecol Pathol. 1988;7:39-47.

Sherman KJ, Chow WH, Daling JR, Weiss NS. Sexually transmitted diseases and the risk of tubal pregnancy. J Reprod Med. 1988;33(1):30-4. PubMed

Daling JR, Weiss NS, Hislop TG, Maden C, Coates RJ, Sherman KJ, Ashley RL, Beagrie M, Ryan JA, Corey L. Sexual practices, sexually transmitted diseases, and the incidence of anal cancer. N Engl J Med. 1987;317(16):973-7. PubMed

Sherman KJ, Daling JR, Weiss NS. Sexually transmitted diseases and tubal infertility. Sex Transm Dis. 1987;14(1):12-6. PubMed

Daling JR, Sherman KJ, Weiss NS. Risk factors for condyloma acuminatum in women. Sex Transm Dis. 1986;13(1):16-8. 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.