Catherine Backman, PhD, Reg. OT (BC), FCAOT

Profile portrait of Catherine Backman

Professor Emerita

phone: 604–822–7409



In 2021, I celebrated 40 years as an occupational therapist. A UBC graduate, I began my career in Halifax, NS in hospital-based practice, and had the pleasure of mentoring lots of fieldwork students from across Canada. My interest in research and academia was piqued and took me to graduate school in Seattle, WA, followed by a faculty position at UBC. I was occupational therapy fieldwork coordinator and senior instructor before a short hiatus to complete a doctoral degree in health care and epidemiology, also at UBC. 

I especially enjoy the combination of learning, teaching, and research that comes with my role at UBC because of the collaborations with students, interdisciplinary colleagues, and people living with chronic illness engaged in teaching and research. I’ve held leadership positions like department head, and served as President of the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (2005-06) and the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (2018-20). 

My professional contributions have been recognized by Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists’ Muriel Driver Memorial Lectureship and designation as Fellow (FCAOT); and with Distinguished Scholar and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals. I’m grateful for the acknowledgements, however, the best reward is teaming up with fellow volunteers on many wonderful projects. 

Outside of work, I like farmers’ markets, beach vacations, knitting, and qi gong; and I often join my star-gazing husband in the darkest camping spots in BC to marvel at the universe. 


I’m interested in occupational disruption and the impact of chronic illness on participation in paid and unpaid work and social roles. Studies are related to parenting, employment and creative occupations, with an emphasis on balancing occupations to promote health and well-being. Other studies have evaluated outcomes of occupational therapy and rehabilitation interventions, including the use of e-health tools and the ethical tensions that arise in self-management. I use qualitative and mixed methods research designs. 

Much of my research is based at Arthritis Research Canada where people living with arthritis (through a patient advisory board) make important contributions to defining relevant research questions, 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. 


Currently, I teach sessions in two courses in the MOT program, related to occupational therapy theory and societal and environmental influences on practice. I’m interested in design thinking, systems change, and chronic illness/primary care. In the past, I’ve designed and taught courses in clinical reasoning, professional issues, biomechanical approaches, and occupational therapy theory. 

I value participatory learning and use case-based approaches, experiential activities, debates and small group tutorials when teaching. My role at UBC has involved considerable curriculum leadership including introduction of the MOT curriculum in 2004. Beyond UBC, I’ve been involved in the academic accreditation of occupational therapy programs across Canada. 

I received the UBC Killam Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 2002 in recognition of my contributions.

Graduate and Postdoctoral Research Opportunities

In anticipation of retirement from UBC in the next year or two, I am not taking on any new graduate students. 


  • Senior Scientist, Arthritis Research Canada 
  • Affiliated Investigator, Vancouver Coastal Health 
  • Affiliated Investigator, Fraser Health 
  • Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists, member, volunteer 
  • Association of Rheumatology Professionals, member, volunteer 
  • Interim Co-Editor-in-Chief, Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy

Select Publications

*link to articles provided when possible*

Students’ names are in italics.

Avrech Bar, M., Dao, T. T., DeBlock Vlodarchyk, L. R., & Backman, C. L. (2020). Fatherhood experiences of men with inflammatory arthritis: A preliminary grounded theory. Arthritis Care & Research, early online edition. 

Damiano, N. & Backman, C. L. (2019). More than art, less than work: The paradoxes of citizenship and art making in community mental health. BC Studies: The British Columbian Quarterly, 202 (Summer), 41-63. doi: 10.1177/000841740407100201 

Brooks, L., Ta, K-H N., Townsend, A. F., & Backman, C. L. (2019). “I just love it:” Avid knitters describe health and well-being through occupation. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 86, 114-124. 

Li, L .C., Feehan L. M., Shaw, C., Xie, H., Sayre, E. C., Aviña-Zubieta, A., Grewal, N., Townsend, A. F., Gromala, D., Noonan, G., & Backman, C. L. (2017). A technology-enabled counselling program versus a delayed treatment control to support physical activity participation in people with inflammatory arthritis: Study protocol for the OPAM-IA randomized controlled trial. BMC Rheumatology, 1:6. 

Hamilton, C. B., Hoens, A. M., Backman, C. L., English, K., McKinnon, A. M., McQuitty, S., Li, L. C. (2018). An empirically based conceptual framework for fostering meaningful patient engagement in research. Health Expectations, 21, 396-406. doi:10.1111/hex.12635  

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. 

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. 

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., 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., 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. 

More publications listed in my Google Scholar profile