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Professor Robert Mulholland

SBPR President 












After qualification at the London Hospital in 1959 and after National Service in the Australian Navy I did General Surgery for three years, and obtained my FRCS in 1963. I commenced my Orthopaedic Training at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, London then at St. Bartholomew's Hospital and then Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, Oswestry, I then went to the University of Washington-Seattle USA as a Member of the Orthopaedic Faculty.

I was appointed Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Nottingham University Hospital in 1972, with a special interest in the spine and back pain. Following appointment I established a Spinal Research Department, funded by the Coal Board and by the NHS., and the Back  Pain Association. I had a sucession of Spinal fellows, 16, ,of whom 14    became spinal surgeons My initial practice was in trauma, general orthopaedics (including children) and spinal surgery. However as a consequence of my special interest, I progressively specialised, and from 1985 onwards my practice was exclusively all aspects of spinal surgery, excluding adolescent and children's deformity. I was active in a number of Spinal societies, and was President of the Society for Back Pain research, The International society for the study of the lumbar spine,(ISSLS) and the society that preceded BASS- British Orthopaedic Spinal  Society. As a consequence of my contributions to the field of spinal surgery. I was granted a Personal Chair in Trauma and Orthopaedics at Nottingham University in 1994.

I retired from the NHS in 1999, but continued to be involved in spinal research and held my Chair until 2006  I was given an Hunterian Professorship in 2007 for a paper concerning spinal Instability. I write an annual review of all papers in the European spine Journal, published in the Journal each  January. I was elected to be an Honorary Fellow of the BOA in 2014.

Professor Jill Urban

SBPR President






Jill Urban, PhD is a Senior Research fellow emeritus in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics Oxford University.  She has a major interest in how the macromolecular composition of the matrix, and hence disc degeneration, is affected by responses of disc cells to mechanical loading and nutrient supply. Her long-standing collaborator, Professor Jeremy Fairbank has placed the basic studies in a clinical context and has supplied waste surgical tissue for numerous studies. She has published over 100 peer reviewed papers and 30 chapters on disc and cartilage physiology, won several international prizes including a Volvo and two ISSLS prizes and has co-ordinated two EU programmes on disc degeneration, Eurodisc and Genodisc.

Professor Stephen Eisenstein

SBPR President 1996-1998











Photo herewith, taken in Amman, Jordan 2014, where one of my talks described my multiple failures at surgical correction of thoracic kyphosis.  Hardly a backpain matter but the point to be made is that I regret that speakers, especially those of us old enough to have had a good many failures, are too shy to talk of their failures generally.  The physician DNA, especially in surgeons, makes that very difficult.  The pity is that there is so much to learn from failure.  If nothing else, we can learn to 'fail better’ - Samuel Beckett.

Regarding backpain, I do hope that we can retreat somewhat from our obsession with the disc, as important as that is, and research more on the role of other soft tissue strains.  I suspect a lot of backpain can be regarded as the spinal equivalent of plantar fasciitis.  I am hoping to initiate an investigation into the role of shockwave therapy in certain backpain presentations.

Professor Chris Main

SBPR President 1998-2000









Chris is a longstanding member of SBPR, and previously served as a committee member and President (1998-2000).

He has had a longstanding interest in musculo-skeletal disorders (particularly LBP) as viewed from a biopsychosocial perspective. Following his work in orthopaedics (with Gordon Waddell) researching the nature of LB disability, he established the first interdisciplinary pain management programme (with Chris Spanswick and later Paul Watson) in Salford in 1983., He has been a prime mover in the development of secondary prevention with the development of the Yellow Flag initiative (1997 & 2009) (with Nick Kendall and Steven Linton) and the later Blue/Black flags (2000) (with Kim Burton and Bill Shaw). He has published widely, including The Back Book, a textbook on Pain Management (2000 & 2008) and was Senior editor (with Francis Keefe) of Fordyce's text book on Behavioural Methods in Chronic Pain & Illness (2016). He is a co-author of The StartBack Tool (2008) and the subsequent RCT (2011). Recently he has been working (with Steven George) on the dissemination of Psychologically Informed Practice (PiP). Currently he is Professor Emeritus at Keele University and an Honorary Member of the British Pain Society, the International Association for the Study of Pain and the American Spine Society.

Professor Bruce Caterson

SBPR President 2000-2002


Bruce received his BSc and PhD degrees from Monash University, Victoria, Australia followed by 20 years (Postdoc -Professor) in the USA at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, West Virginia University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before spending his last 23 years of research and teaching at Cardiff University, Wales, UK. In research, Bruce was the first to produce and use monoclonal antibodies against connective tissue glycosaminoglycans/proteoglycans to study their roles played in connective tissue metabolism in health and disease. Also, he was a past President of the Orthopaedic Research Society (USA) and the Society for Back Pain Research (UK) as well as Chairman of the British Society for Matrix Biology.

Professor Kim Burton, OBE

SBPR President 2002 - 2004









“! joined SBPR in 1974 as a novice researcher looking for friends and a direction: I found both! SBPR was and remains a special society, one that nurtures young researchers; one that provided me with numerous mentors and many close colleagues, without whom I would have been unable to make any sort of contribution. I owe a debt of gratitude, and hope I have been able to put something back”

Professor Charles Greenough

SBPR President 2004 - 2006












Charles Greenough spent his career in orthopaedic spinal surgery with a lifelong interest in low back pain, starting with his MD thesis at Cambridge University “Recovery from Low Back Injury”. A passionate believer in evidence-based medicine and comprehensive multi-disciplinary management, as National Clinical Director for Spinal Services he chaired the NHS England National Low Back Pain Pathway and the Improving Spinal Care Project. It is the openness and honesty, and truly multidisciplinary nature of the Society for Back Pain Research makes it such a force in back pain research.

Dr Patricia Dolan

SBPR President 2006 - 2008





Patricia Dolan graduated from Coventry University with a BSc in Biological Science in 1979 after which she obtained a PhD in Muscle Physiology from London Metropolitan University in 1985.  She has worked in spinal research for over thirty years and during this time has published widely in the field of spine biomechanics.  Her main area of interest relates to the role of mechanical factors and impaired muscle function in low back and neck pain, and in recent years her work has focused on the links between mechanical loading, intervertebral disc degeneration and spinal osteoporosis. She co-authored the book “Biomechanics of Back Pain” with Mike Adams, Kim Burton and Nik Bogduk, and has contributed chapters to a variety of biomedical textbooks on topics ranging from intervertebral disc degeneration to sensorimotor control mechanisms.  She was an active member of the Society for Back Pain Research for many years and held the position of Honorary Secretary from 1999 to 2001 and of President from 2006 to 2008.  She was also a member of the Executive Committee of the International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine.  She retired from the University of Bristol in 2014 but continues to have an interest in back pain research.  She currently holds an honorary senior research fellowship at the University of Bristol and a visiting professorship at the Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital at Zhejiang University in China.

Dr Charles Pither

SBPR President


Biography currently not available

Professor Jeremy Fairbank

SBPR Secretary early 1980s










Jeremy Fairbank was educated in Cambridge and St Thomas’ Hospital and trained to be an orthopaedic spine surgeon. He was a consultant in Birmingham and Oxford, and been Professor of Spine Surgery since 2006 in Oxford. He published the Oswestry Disability Index in 1981; been involved in several clinical trials relating to back pain, including one comparing operative and non-operative care. Most recently he has been involved with a group developing automatic reading of MRI scans, which will help to unlock some of the outstanding challenges for back pain researchers.

Professor Michael Adams

SBPR Executive Board Member 











Michael Adams graduated from Edinburgh University in 1975 with a BSc in Natural Philosophy (Physics). This was followed by a PhD in Spinal Mechanics from the University of Westminster (London) in 1980. Since then he has worked continuously in spinal biomechanics and biology, specialising in mechanisms of injury, spinal posture, and the nature of spinal degeneration. Of his 130 peer-reviewed papers, 15 have been awarded national or international prizes, and 27 have been cited more than 100 times (in ‘Scopus’).  Together with Trish Dolan, Kim Burton and Nik Bogduk, he wrote the influential book “Biomechanics of Back Pain”, which proposes that spinal injury, degeneration and pain can (and should) be explained rigorously in terms of tissue mechanics and cell biology, and that abnormal psychosocial characteristics often follow rather than cause chronic pain. Michael Adams is currently an honorary senior research fellow at the University of Bristol, U.K, and a visiting professor at the Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital in Hangzhou, China.

Mr Alistair Stirling

Chair of the UK Spine Societies Board 2015-2018












Alistair went to the Lodgemoor Spinal Injuries course as an Orthopaedic surgical trainee and saw the impact of paralysis and that this could often be prevented through timely intervention for trauma, tumour, infection.The advent of modern instrument systems enabled previously inconceivable reconstructive solutions . For tumour this led to roles as Lead Clinician for NICE MSCC CG75 and organisation of annual national meetings for primary and metastatic spinal tumours. For infection work on the serology in those with pyogenic infection compared with controls suggested bacterial colonization might have a role in back pain and sciatica. He remains confident that when technology evolves and if trial funding permits this will be confirmed. He was a lead contributor to DH spinal taskforce reports (2010,2013), National Low back and Radicular Pathway (2013, 2017). He was Chair of UKSSB 2015-18 and led organisation of BritSpine in 2002, 2016,2018. He is particularly supportive of the role of physiotherapists and AHPs in the assessment and management of degenerative spinal conditions (NBP-CN) and of SBPR in providing the essential enthusiastic collaborative multidisciplinary research forum (which should be mandatory for surgeons – at least in alternate years!).

Mr Martin Nelson

Founder member

Chairman in 1989-90





Martin Andrew Nelson 15. 11. 1932

Attended Mill Hill School, London 1947-51 

Trained at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School 1951-56 and Guys Hospital 1964-67

1967-8 Orthopaedic Instructor, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore USA 

1968- Hunterian Professor RCS Eng -The Orthopaedic Complications of the Chondrodystrophies-

1969-1993 Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at the Leeds General Infirmary 

1971 Robert Jones Prize RCS Eng, The Spinal Tragedy in Achondroplasia 

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