Dr. Kim Cullen

Associate Scientist and Knowledge Exchange Associate
PhD, Biophysics, University of Guelph

Searching for and considering the best available research evidence when making decisions is important to Dr. Kim Cullen. She first realized this while working as a clinical kinesiologist in an orthopaedic rehabilitation clinic. Her clients were people who had suffered a motor vehicle accident, and Cullen was responsible for determining whether they were able to meet the physical demands of their jobs once they had completed a rehabilitation program.

“As I learned more about the limited predictive validity of the tools and instruments available, I decided to take on a master’s degree in clinical rehabilitation science,” says Cullen. “It was this same commitment that led me to undertake my doctoral studies, and it is what continues to motivate me now.”

Since 2000, her research efforts have focused on providing evidence to inform initiatives to help prevent and manage musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and mental health conditions. Her master’s thesis examined the role of organizational policies and practices in the lost-time claims experience of Ontario educational facilities. This led to a specific interest in participatory ergonomics interventions, aimed at preventing work-related MSDs. As part of this work, she examined not only what strategies were effective, but also what factors either facilitated or hindered effective implementation of these strategies.

For her doctorate, she drove a research program, from conception to realization, on the pattern of MSDs and injury among dogs that took part in international agility competitions. Her research in this area was novel in several ways—one of which was the development of guidelines for the use of minimally invasive, ultrasound-guided fine-wire electromyography for data collection and for investigations of muscle activation during highly dynamic activities. 

Cullen joined the Institute in 2002. Much of her work since then has focused on examining the effectiveness of interventions for return-to-work and stay-at-work after injury or illness. As an active member of the Institute’s systematic review program, Cullen has contributed to 13 peer-reviewed publications in the capacity of reviewer, coordinator or methods consultant. Currently, Cullen is involved in a project to develop and test an innovative methodology for synthesizing current scientific knowledge and tailoring it for use in specific provincial and local contexts. In addition to developing an innovative set of methods suitable for occupational health and safety stakeholders in several jurisdictions across Canada, the project will produce a sample knowledge synthesis strategy that’s contextualized for the specific resources, capacities and challenges of the provinces.

Current projects: 

Return to work: an update of a systematic review

Aging and work participation: a systematic review

Synthesizing occupational health and safety knowledge for local stakeholders

Managing depression

Osteoarthritis and work: a systematic review

Critical appraisal within systematic reviews of measurement properties: a review of available instruments

Ergonomics Integrated Planning Action Committee

Selected Publications: 

Cullen K, Irvin E, Collie A, Palagyi A, Clay F, Gensby U, Jennings P, Hogg-Johnson S, Kristman V, Laberge M, Mckenzie D, Ruseckaite R, Sheppard D, Shourie S, Steenstra I, Van Eerd D, Amick BC. Workplace-based interventions for improving return to work after musculoskeletal, pain-related and mental health conditions: An updated systematic review. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation.

Steenstra IA, Cullen K, Alavinia M, Beaton D, Geary J, Gignac M, Gross D, Irvin E, Mahood Q, Puts M, Scott-Marshall H, Tompa E, Van Eerd D, Yazdani A. A systematic review on the role of aging in return-to-work and stay-at-work. Journal of Safety Research: 2017; 60:93-102  doi:10.1016/j.jsr.2016.12.004

Frank J, Cullen K, Institute for Work & Health Ad Hoc Working Group. Preventing injury, illness and disability at work. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment, and Health. 2006; 32(2):160-7.

Beaton DE, Van Eerd D, Smith P, van der Velde G, Cullen K, Kennedy CA, Hogg-Johnson S. Minimal change is sensitive, less specific to recovery: a diagnostic testing approach to interpretability. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. 2011;64(5):487-96.