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

Group Health Research Institute Senior Investigator

Biography

Dan Cherkin’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 Group Health Research Institute (GHRI) 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 GHRI 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

  • Alternative Approaches to Healing

    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 DC, Sherman KJ, Turner JA. Mindfulness-based stress reduction vs cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic low back pain-reply. JAMA. 2016 Aug 9;316(6):663-4. doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.7951. No abstract available. 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 May 31. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Cherkin DC, Sherman KJ, Balderson BH, Cook AJ, Anderson ML, Hawkes RJ, Hansen KE, Turner JA. Effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction vs cognitive behavioral therapy or usual care on back pain and functional limitations in adults with chronic low back pain: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2016 Mar 22-29;315(12):1240-9. doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.2323. PubMed

Jarvik JG, Comstock BA, James KT, Avins AL, Bresnahan BW, Deyo RA, Luetmer PH, Friedly JL, Meier EN, Cherkin DC, Gold LS, Rundell SD, Halabi SS, Kallmes DF, Tan KW, Turner JA, Kessler LG, Lavallee DC, Stephens KA, Heagerty PJ. Lumbar imaging with reporting of epidemiology (LIRE)-protocol for a pragmatic cluster randomized trial. Contemp Clin Trials. 2015 Oct 19. pii: S1551-7144(15)30101-4. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2015.10.003. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

 

News release

Mindfulness meditation eases chronic low back pain

 
March 22, 2016—JAMA publishes randomized controlled trial by Group Health researchers, comparing mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy, and usual care for back pain.
 
Read it in News and Events.

healthy findings blog

A call for a more patient-centered approach to treating back pain

Dr. Dan Cherkin reflects on three decades of research to improve care for back pain, concluding a supportive, healing context may be key.
 
Read it in Healthy Findings.

video

Cherkin-Newsrelease-Mindfulness_1col.jpg

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

(JAMA Network, 2:26)

 

GHRI In the Media

Mindfulness meditation eases chronic low back pain

Mind-based therapies may ease lower back pain

New York Times, March 22, 2016