NameProf Karen Walker-Bone
QualificationsBM, FRCP, PhD, Hon FFOM
RoleProfessor 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 Unit 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 Unit. The principal focus of her new role will be working with Professors Coggon and Palmer in the ‘Work and health’ programme. There has been a strong focus on musculoskeletal disease in relation to work within this programme (hip osteoarthritis in farmers; back pain in nurses; upper limb disorders; carpal tunnel syndrome) and Karen has been appointed to strengthen this focus. Having developed an international track record in observational epidemiological studies around detection of hazards to health in the workplace, the evolving programme recognises that work can also be good for health and that people with musculoskeletal disease potentially have barriers preventing them from full participation in work. The explicit intention is to move from observational studies in this area into the development of intervention trials and translation of the epidemiology into demonstrable reductions in workplace disability. Karen will also work with and provide stronger integration between this programme and that of Prof Cooper, Prof Dennison and Dr Harvey in the ‘Bone and Joint’ programme.