Director – Professor Karen Walker-Bone

Karen Walker-Bone BM, FRCP, PhD, Hon FFOM
Professor of Occupational Rheumatology

Karen graduated from Southampton University Medical School in 1991. She trained in rheumatology in the Wessex region and became an accredited Consultant in 2002. Karen took time out of her clinical training between 1999-2002 when she was awarded an Arthritis Research UK Clinical Research Fellowship to study the epidemiology of neck and upper limb disorders among working-aged adults at the MRC Epidemiology Centre under the supervision of Prof Cyrus Cooper and Prof David Coggon. Karen completed her PhD in 2002. Her work received national attention with two Young Investigator Awards, one from the British Society of Rheumatology and one from the National Osteoporosis Society. Together with Prof Keith Palmer, Karen was also a recipient of an international award from the US National Institute for farm safety research in 2004.

Between 2003-13, Karen worked at the Brighton & Sussex Medical School, starting a month before their first ever cohort of medical students. Her role involved clinical rheumatology and curriculum and phase development, validation and leadership. Karen developed and led the fourth year project module (which received commendation from the GMC) from its inception in 2007 until she left in 2013. Whilst in Brighton, Karen developed a specialist rheumatology clinic for HIV-infected patients to assess and manage the joint and bone manifestations of the chronic infection. In total, she saw more than 400 referrals and this clinic sparked a number of epidemiological studies, which showed for example, the risk factors for gout and elective hip surgery among HIV-infected patients. Together with the HIV Consultants in Brighton, a cohort of 400 HIV-infected men was incepted into a longitudinal study of bone health.

In 2013, Karen returned to Southampton to the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre. She has since taken over leadership of the MRC Programme 2: Musculoskeletal Health in the Mid-Life Course, and Directorship of this Centre, the National Centre for Musculoskeletal Health and Work, co-funded by Versus Arthritis and MRC ( Their overarching aim is to understand the relationships between work and health, minimising harm to musculoskeletal health at work and maximising capacity to work despite musculoskeletal conditions. The work includes observational studies, a large prospective cohort study of older workers throughout the UK (the HEAF study) (, and intervention studies.

Karen’s research supports policy-making and she is a member if the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council and its Research Working Group ( and has an Honorary Fellowship of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine. She is the Royal College of Physicians’ Representative on the Faculty Council.