phone: 6048227409
fax: 6048227624
Research Graduate Student Opportunities

Current Research Graduate Students

Catherine currently works with two postdoctoral fellows and three PhD students.

Future Research Graduate Students

Catherine welcomes inquiries from potential MSc or PhD students with compatible research priorities – click on the Research tab below. Contact her as far in advance as possible to fully explore funding opportunities. Visit the Rehabilitation Sciences Research Graduate Programs website for more information.

Occupational Profile

A UBC graduate, Catherine began her career as an occupational therapist in Halifax, NS. Providing fieldwork education triggered an interest in academia, and a variety of practice questions stimulated a desire for research training – together, these led her to graduate school in Seattle, WA, then to a faculty position at UBC in 1986.  She was occupational therapy fieldwork coordinator and senior instructor before taking a short hiatus to complete a doctoral degree in Health Care & Epidemiology, also at UBC.  Catherine’s contributions to the profession were recognized by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists with the Muriel Driver Memorial Lectureship in 2004, at which time she also became a Fellow of the CAOT.  In 2009, she received the Distinguished Scholar Award from the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals.  Outside of work, Catherine enjoys beach vacations, knitting, and accompanies her star-gazing husband to the darkest places to camp in BC (to see the universe).

Research Interests & Specialization

My research interests cluster in two broad areas: (a) occupational disruption and the impact of chronic illness on participation in paid and unpaid work and social roles. Recent studies relate to parenting, employment, and creative occupations, with an emphasis on balancing occupations to promote health and well-being; (b) evaluating the outcomes of occupational therapy and rehabilitation interventions, including use of e-health tools, and the ethical tensions that arise in delivering competent care.

Much of Catherine’s research is based at the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada (ARC), where people living with arthritis (through a patient advisory board) make important contributions to defining relevant research questions and interpreting findings, and lead knowledge translation activities for the general public. Projects are implemented by interdisciplinary teams and with partners across Canada, and graduate students have designed or participated in many of them. Completed studies include the investigation of the impact of arthritis on mothering tasks; development of evidence-based guidelines for rehabilitation following hip and knee arthroplasty; development of the Social Role Participation Questionnaire; and evaluating the Making It Work program to prevent work disability. Recently, funding was received to explore the ethics of e-health – how people with chronic conditions use electronic media to find health information, monitor their health, and how this influences their interaction with their health care providers. Emerging projects examine the benefits of participating in creative occupations (art, knitting), and explore perceptions of occupational balance and its relationship to health and well-being.


Here are some links to research products and findings:

The Impact of Arthritis on Mothers – English

The Impact of Arthritis on Mothers – French graphics & sub-titles

Download the Ergonomic Assessment Tool for Arthritis (EATA)

Teaching Interests

I have designed and taught courses in clinical reasoning, professional/ethical issues, program design, biomedical approaches, and occupational therapy theory. Currently, my main teaching responsibility is the introduction to occupational therapy theory. I embrace participatory learning, and use case-based learning, experiential activities, debates and small group tutorials. My role at UBC has involved considerable curriculum leadership and I created several distinct components of the MOT curriculum, including new graduate seminars on primary health care and chronic illness care. Beyond professional education at UBC, I participate as a peer evaluator in the accreditation of occupational therapy programs across Canada. In 2002, I received a UBC Killam Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

Graduate Students Research Topics (recently completed with me as primary supervisor):
Mineko Wada, PhD, Conceptions of balance in dual income couples with young children
Theresa McElroy, PhD, Early childhood development in displacement camps in northern Uganda
Marie Westby, PhD, Evidence-based guidelines for post-acute rehabilitation following total hip or knee joint replacement
Sandra Hale, MSc, Workplace experiences of adults with bipolar disorder
Helia Sillem, MSc, Crossover trial of commercial and custom splints for thumb osteoarthritis
Linda del Fabro Smith, MSc, Doing and being a mother with arthritis
Laura Brooks and Kim Ta-Tran, MOT, Knitting and well-being
Cloe Whitaker and Emily Grant, MOT, Men, art, and well-being
Thao Dao and Leah DeBlock, MOT Fathers with arthritis
Heather McDonald and Tracy Dietrich, MOT, Occupational disruption in early rheumatoid arthritis

Activities & Memberships
  • Research Scientist, Arthritis Research Centre of Canada (ARC)
  • Affiliated Investigator, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute (VCHRI)
  • Editorial Board (past Associate Editor), Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy
  • Member and Fellow, Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT)
  • Member, Canadian Society of Occupational Scientists (CSOS)
  • Member and Past President, Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (ARHP)
  • Editorial Board, Arthritis Care & Research
  • Member, Canadian Bioethics Society
Selected Publications

*links to articles provided when possible*

Students’ names are underlined.

Wada, M., Backman, C.L., Forwell, S.J., Roth, W-M., and Ponzetti, J.J. (2014) Balance in everyday life: Dual-income parents’ collective and individual conceptions. Journal of Occupational Science, 21, 259-276. doi:10.1080/14427591.2014.913331

Westby, M.D., Brittain, A., & Backman, C.L. (2014). Expert consensus on best practices for post-acute rehabilitation after total hip and knee arthroplasty: A Canada and United States Dephi study. Arthritis Care & Research, 66, 411-423. DOI: 10.1002/acr.22164.

Townsend, A., Backman, C.L., Adam, P., & Li, L.C. (2014). Women’s accounts of help-seeking in early rheumatoid arthritis from symptom onset to diagnosis. Chronic Illness, early online edition, DOI: 10.1177/1742395314520769.

Li, L.C., Adam, P.M., Townsend, A.F., Lacaille, D., Yousefi, C., Stacey, D., Gromala, D., Shaw, C., Tugwell, P., & Backman, C.L. (2013). Usability testing of ANSWER: A web-based methotrexate decision aid for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 13, 131. doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-131.

Townsend, A., Adam, P. Li, L.C., McDonald, M., & Backman, C.L. (2013). Exploring e-health 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. Journal of Medical Internet Research – JMIR Research Protocols, 2(2):e38. doi:10.2196/resprot.2732.

Gignac, M.A.M., Backman, C.L., Kaptein, S., Lacaille, D., Beaton, D.E., Hofstetter, C., & Badley, E.M. (2012). Tension at the borders: Perceptions of role overload, conflict, strain and facilitation in work, family and health roles among employed individuals with arthritis. Rheumatology, 51, 324-332. DOI:10.1093/rheumatology/ker317.

McDonald, H., Dietrich, T., Townsend, A., Cox, S., Li, L.C. & Backman, C.L. (2012). Exploring occupational disruption among women after onset of rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Care & Research, 64, 197-205. doi:10.1002/acr.20668.

McElroy, T., Muyinda, H., Atim, S., Spittal, P. & Backman, C. (2012). War, displacement and productive occupations in northern Uganda. Journal of Occupational Science, 19, 198-212. DOI:10.1080/14427591.2011.614681.

Mortenson, W.B., Oliffe, J.L., Miller, W.C., Backman, C.L. (2012). Grey spaces: The wheeled fields of residential care. Sociology of Health & Illness, 34, 315-329. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2011.01371.x. [Ben Mortenson won the CIHR Institute of Aging’s 2011 Age+ Prize for this paper based on his doctoral thesis]

Sillem, H., Backman, C.L., Miller, W.C., Li, L.C. (2011). Comparison of two carpometacarpal stabilizing splints for individuals with thumb osteoarthritis. Journal of Hand Therapy, 24, 216-226. doi:10.1016/j.jht.2010.12.004. [Helia Sillem received the Journal’s “Best New Writer” award for this paper based on her MSc thesis]

Backman, C.L. (2010). Occupational balance and well-being. In C.H. Christiansen & E. Townsend (Eds.) Introduction to occupation: The art and science of living, 2nd ed., pp. 231-249. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Gignac, M.A.M., Backman, C.L., Davies, A.M., Lacaille, D., Mattison, C.A., Montie, P. & Badley, E.M. (2008). Understanding social role participation: Measuring what matters to people with arthritis. Journal of Rheumatology, 35, 1655-1663.

Backman, C.L., Village, J., Lacaille, D. (2008). The ergonomic assessment tool for arthritis (EATA): Development and pilot testing. Arthritis & Rheumatism (Arthritis Care and Research), 59, 1495-1503.

Backman, C.L., Del Fabro Smith, L., Montie, P., Smith, S. & Suto, M. (2007). The experiences of mothers living with inflammatory arthritis. Arthritis & Rheumatism (Arthritis Care & Research), 57, 381-388.

Backman, C.L. (2004). Muriel Driver Memorial Lecture. Occupational balance: Exploring the relationships among daily occupations and their influence on well-being. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71, 202-209.

Backman, C.L., Kennedy, S.M., Chalmers, A. & Singer, J. (2004). Participation in paid and unpaid work by adults with rheumatoid arthritis. Journal of Rheumatology, 31, 47-57.

Backman, C.L. & Harris, S.R. (1999). Case studies, single subject research and N-of-1 randomized trials: Comparisons and contrasts. American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 78, 170-176.

Backman, C.go & Mackie, H. (1997). Reliability and validity of the arthritis hand function test among adults with osteoarthritis. Occupational Therapy Journal of Research, 17, 55-66.