Catherine Backman

Senior Scientist of Rehabilitation, PhD, FCAOT



  • Professor Emeritus, Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy, University of British Columbia
  • Affiliated Researcher, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute


Research Interests

  •  Reducing the impact of arthritis on everyday activities


Dr. Catherine Backman is an occupational therapist, educator and researcher interested in the impact of arthritis on participation in valued life roles like parenting and employment. She evaluates the outcome of occupational therapy and rehabilitation interventions, and identifies strategies people use to live well while living with arthritis. Dr. Backman especially enjoys working alongside patient collaborators in research; they play a critical role in identifying research questions and conducting studies.

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Dr. Backman earned her Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation degree at the University of British Columbia, Master of Science at the University of Washington, and PhD in Health Care and Epidemiology at the University of British Columbia. Her professional career began in 1981 as an occupational therapist at the Victoria General Hospital in Halifax, NS. She has been a clinical instructor and visiting lecturer in the School of Occupational Therapy at Dalhousie University, visiting assistant professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch, and Diamond Jubilee International Visiting Fellow at the University of Southampton. 

Dr. Backman is recognized as an exceptional mentor and leader. In 2004, the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists awarded Catherine the Muriel Driver Memorial Lectureship and named her a Fellow (FCAOT). She was the 2009 recipient of the Distinguished Scholar Award and 2021 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Rheumatology Professionals, a Division of the American College of Rheumatology. Her research engages consumer collaborators as members of the research team, work recognized by the Arthritis Patient Advisory Board of Arthritis Research Canada.

Dr. Backman was Head, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy from January 1, 2012 to December 30, 2015. Currently a professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Dr. Backman led the development of the Master of Occupational Therapy program when it was introduced in 2004. She supervises MSc and PhD students in rehabilitation and interdisciplinary studies. In 2002, she received the prestigious Killam University Teaching Prize.

Selected Publications

Paterson G, Toupin April K, Backman C, Tugwell P. OA Go Away: Development and Preliminary Validation of a Self-Management Tool to Promote Adherence to Exercise and Physical Activity for People with Osteoarthritis of the Hip or Knee. Physiother Can. 2016;68(2):124-132. PMID: 27909359; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5125475. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27909359


Tate RL, Perdices M, Rosenkoetter U, Shadish W, Vohra S, Barlow DH, Horner R, Kazdin A, Kratochwill T, McDonald S, Sampson M, Shamseer L, Togher L, Albin R, Backman C, Douglas J, Evans JJ, Gast D, Manolov R, Mitchell G, Nickels L, Nikles J, Ownsworth T, Rose M, Schmid CH, Wilson B. The Single-Case Reporting Guideline In BEhavioural Interventions (SCRIBE) 2016 Statement. Arch Sci Psychol 2016;4(1):1-9. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/arc0000026 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27499422


With simultaneous publication in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, Aphasiology, Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, Evidence-Based Communication Assessment and Intervention, Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, Journal of School Psychology, Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, Physical Therapy, and Remedial and Special Education.


Avrech Bar M, Forwell S, Backman CL. Ascribing Meaning to Occupation: An Example From Healthy, Working Mothers. OTJR. 2016 36(3):148-58. doi: 10.1177/1539449216652622. PMID:27618850 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27618850


To-Miles FY, Backman CL. What telomeres say about activity and health: A rapid review. Can J Occup Ther. 2016;83(3):143-153. doi: 10.1177/0008417415627345 PMID: 27053148. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27053148


Agha A, Liu-Ambrose TY, Backman CL, Leese J, Li LC. Understanding the Experiences of Rural Community-Dwelling Older Adults in Using a New DVD-Delivered Otago Exercise Program: A Qualitative Study. Interact J Med Res. 2015 13;4(3):e17. doi: 10.2196/ijmr.4257. PMID: 26272163; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4705014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26272163


Wada M, Backman CL, Forwell SJ. (2015). Men’s discursive constructions of balance in everyday life. Community, Work & Family, 2015;18(1):117-133. doi: 10.1080/13668803.2014.965662


Townsend A, Leese J, Adam P, McDonald M, Li LC, Kerr S, Backman CL. eHealth, Participatory Medicine, and Ethical Care: A Focus Group Study of Patients’ and Health Care Providers’ Use of Health-Related Internet Information. J Med Internet Res. 2015 17(6):e155. doi: 10.2196/jmir.3792. PMID: 26099267; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4526955. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26099267


Carruthers EC, Rogers P, Backman CL, Goldsmith CH, Gignac MA, Marra C, Village J, Li LC, Esdaile JM, Lacaille D. “Employment and arthritis: making it work” a randomized controlled trial evaluating an online program to help people with inflammatory arthritis maintain employment (study protocol). BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2014 Jul 21;14:59. doi: 10.1186/1472-6947-14-59. PubMed PMID: 25043631; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4123503. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25043631


Li LC, Adam PM, Backman CL, Lineker S, Jones CA, Lacaille D, Townsend AF, Yacyshyn E, Yousefi C, Tugwell P, Leese J, Stacey D. Proof-of-concept study of a Web-based methotrexate decision aid for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Care Res. 2014;66(10):1472-81. doi: 10.1002/acr.22319. PubMed PMID: 24623617. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24623617


Townsend A, Backman CL, Adam P, Li LC. Women’s accounts of help-seeking in early rheumatoid arthritis from symptom onset to diagnosis. Chronic Illn. 2014;10(4):259-72. doi: 10.1177/1742395314520769. Epub 2014 Feb 24. PubMed PMID: 24567194. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24567194


Gignac MA, Lacaille D, Beaton DE, Backman CL, Cao X, Badley EM. Striking a balance: work-health-personal life conflict in women and men with arthritis and its association with work outcomes. J Occup Rehabil. 2014;24(3):573-84. doi: 10.1007/s10926-013-9490-5. PubMed PMID: 24370635; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4118040. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24370635


Westby MD, Brittain A, Backman CL. Expert consensus on best practices for post-acute rehabilitation after total hip and knee arthroplasty: a Canada and United States Delphi study. Arthritis Care Res. 2014;66(3):411-23. doi: 10.1002/acr.22164. PMID: 24023047. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24023047


Wada M, Backman CL, Forwell SJ, Roth W-M, Ponzetti JJ. (2014) Balance in everyday life: Dual-income parents’ collective and individual conceptions. J Occup Sci 2014;21(3);259-276. doi:10.1080/14427591.2014.913331


Simpson LA, Eng JJ, Backman CL, Miller WC. Rating of Everyday Arm-Use in the Community and Home (REACH) scale for capturing affected arm-use after stroke: development, reliability, and validity. PLoS One. 2013 Dec 16;8(12):e83405. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0083405. eCollection 2013. PMID: 24358282; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3865179. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24358282


Li LC, Adam PM, Townsend AF, Lacaille D, Yousefi C, Stacey D, Gromala D, Shaw CD, Tugwell P, Backman CL. Usability testing of ANSWER: a web-based methotrexate decision aid for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2013 13:131. doi: 10.1186/1472-6947-13-131. PMID: 24289731; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4220621. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24289731


Allaire SJ, Backman CL, Alheresh R, Baker NA. Ergonomic intervention for employed persons with rheumatic conditions. Work. 2013;46(3):355-61. doi: 10.3233/WOR-131761. Review. PubMed PMID: 24201452. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24201452


Townsend A, Adam P, Li LC, McDonald M, Backman CL. Exploring eHealth Ethics and Multi-Morbidity: Protocol for an Interview and Focus Group Study of Patient and Health Care Provider Views and Experiences of Using Digital Media for Health Purposes. JMIR Res Protoc. 2013 Oct 17;2(2):e38. doi: 10.2196/resprot.2732. PMID: 24135260; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3806546. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24135260


Townsend A, Backman CL, Adam P, Li LC. A qualitative interview study: patient accounts of medication use in early rheumatoid arthritis from symptom onset to early postdiagnosis. BMJ Open. 2013 13;3(2). pii: e002164. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2012-002164. PMID: 23408077; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3586058. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23408077


Kaptein SA, Backman CL, Badley EM, Lacaille D, Beaton DE, Hofstetter C, Gignac MA. Choosing where to put your energy: a qualitative analysis of the role of physical activity in the lives of working adults with arthritis. Arthritis Care Res. 2013;65(7):1070-6. doi: 10.1002/acr.21957. PMID:23335584 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23335584


Gignac MA, Backman CL, Davis AM, Lacaille D, Cao X, Badley EM. Social role participation and the life course in healthy adults and individuals with osteoarthritis: are we overlooking the impact on the middle-aged? Soc Sci Med. 2013;81:87-93. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.12.013. PMID: 23312300. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23312300


Kyi MT, Fischer JA, Penner J, Read JA, Backman CL. Physical effect of work on healthy individuals: implications for FCE testing. Work. 2012;42(2):233-9. doi: 10.3233/WOR-2012-1346. PMID: 22699190. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22699190


Shaw L, Jacobs K, Rudman D, Magalhaes L, Huot S, Prodinger B, Mandich A, Hocking C, Akande V, Backman C, Bossers A, Bragg M, Bryson M, Cowls J, Stone SD, Dawe E, Dennhardt S, Dennis D, Foster J, Friesen M, Galheigo S, Gichuri J, Hughes I, Isaac A, Jarus T, Kinsella A, Klinger L, Leyshon R, Lysaght R, McKay E, Orchard T, Phelan S, Ravenek M, Rebeiro Gruhl K, Robb L, Stadnyk R, Sumsion T, Suto M. Directions for advancing the study of work transitions in the 21st century. Work. 2012;41(4):369-77. doi: 10.3233/WOR-2012-1438. PMID: 22495407. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22495407


Gignac MA, Backman CL, Kaptein S, Lacaille D, Beaton DE, Hofstetter C, Badley EM. Tension at the borders: perceptions of role overload, conflict, strain and facilitation in work, family and health roles among employed individuals with arthritis. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2012;51(2):324-32. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/ker317. Epub 2011 Oct 27. PMID: 22039223; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3262164. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22039223


McDonald HN, Dietrich T, Townsend A, Li LC, Cox S, Backman CL. Exploring occupational disruption among women after onset of rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2012 Feb;64(2):197-205. doi: 10.1002/acr.20668. PMID: 22006430. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22006430


Townsend A, Amarsi Z, Backman CL, Cox SM, Li LC. Communications between volunteers and health researchers during recruitment and informed consent: qualitative content analysis of email interactions. J Med Internet Res. 2011 13;13(4):e84. doi: 10.2196/jmir.1752. PMID: 21997713; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3222195. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21997713


Sillem H, Backman CL, Miller WC, Li LC. Comparison of two carpometacarpal stabilizing splints for individuals with thumb osteoarthritis. J Hand Ther. 2011;24(3):216-25. doi: 10.1016/j.jht.2010.12.004. PMID: 21420278. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21420278


Del Fabro Smith L, Suto M, Chalmers A, Backman CL.  Belief in doing and knowledge in being mothers with arthritis. OTJR 2011;31(1):40-48. doi:10.3928/15394492-20100222-01.


Westby MD, Backman CL & the North American Guidelines for Joint Replacement Rehabilitation Working Group. Patient and health professional views on rehabilitation practices and outcomes following total hip and knee arthroplasty for osteoarthritis: A focus group study. BMC Health Serv Res 2010;10:119. doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-119. PMID: 20459834. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20459834


Wada M, Backman CL, Forwell SJ. Theoretical perspectives of balance and the influence of gender ideologies. J Occup Sci 2010;17(2):92-103. doi:10.1080/14427591.2010.9686680


Anaby D, Jarus T, Backman CL, Zumbo B. The role of occupational characteristics and occupational imbalance in explaining well-being.  Appl Res Qual Life 2010;5(2):81-104. doi: 10.1007/s11482-010-9094-6.


Anaby DR, Backman CL, Jarus T. Measuring occupational balance: a theoretical exploration of two approaches. Can J Occup Ther. 2010;77(5):280-8. PMID: 21268510. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21268510


Forhan M & Backman CL. Exploring occupational balance (OB) in adults with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). OTJR 2010;30(3):133-141. doi:10.3928/15394492-20090625-01