Associate Professor Shaun O'Leary

Associate Professor - Physiotherapy

School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences

Associate Professor - Physiotherapy

School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences


Dr Shaun O’Leary is a Senior Fellow in Physiotherapy between the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Queensland (UQ), and the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) Physiotherapy Department and Neurosurgical/Orthopaedic Screening Clinics. He is also a Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist as awarded by the Australian College of Physiotherapists. Dr O’Leary’s combined academic and clinical track record underpins his conjoint UQ/RBWH appointment. His service to health is broad, spanning the supervision of clinical research (clinician-initiated, research higher degree, honours, coursework masters), clinical education and mentoring across all levels of the physiotherapy profession (undergraduate, postgraduate, professional development and specialisation), with a particular interest and role in developing clinician-scientist career pathways in Australian public health. Dr O’Leary also serves as a councillor and senior examiner for the Australian College of Physiotherapists, and is the Chair of the colleges Fellowships Program Standing Committee.

ACADEMIC QUALIFICATIONS: Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Hons) (1993) University of Queensland (UQ), Master of Physiotherapy Studies (Musculoskeletal) (2000) UQ, Doctor of Philosophy (Physiotherapy) (2005) UQ, Fellowship of the Australian College of Physiotherapists by Specialisation (Musculoskeletal) (2008).

PUBLICATIONS AND SUPERVISION: Dr O’Leary has over 100 publications including 90 original research articles, 6 invited review articles, 4 book chapters, 2 mainstream clinical text books translated to multiple languages, and 1 international patent. He has supervised 8 research higher degree (7 PhD and 1 MPhil) students to completion and has 4 current students (3 PhD, 1 MPhil), and has supervised 14 honours and 11 masters coursework research projects to completion. Dr O’Leary has delivered presentations at 23 National and 23 International Conferences.

INTERNATIONAL PROFILE: Dr O’Leary has established research collaborations with researchers in the USA (Northwestern University, Chicago), UK (Birmingham University), Sweden (Umea University and Linköping University), Belgium (Ghent University), and Denmark (University of Southern Denmark). Dr O’Leary is also a renowned clinical educator having delivered numerous hands-on clinical workshops in Australia and internationally.

MAJOR FUNDING SUPPORT: Dr O’Leary has to date obtained over AUD$1.6 million in research funding.

Research Impacts

Impact on Policy:

1) NHMRC Research: Johnston, Straker, Sjogaard, O’Leary, Melloh. A workplace-based exercise intervention to prevent and reduce the economic and personal burden of non-specific neck pain in the office personnel (APP1042508) NHMRC Project Grant Organisations Affected: Industry worldwide that employ office workers Changes: Approximately one in two office workers in Australia is affected by neck pain during their working career. This study is the first to combine evidence-based ergonomic and exercise interventions not only for the prevention of neck symptoms but also for the management of neck pain in office workers. It is also the first to evaluate the impact of an intervention relevant to both the employer (lost productivity) and the worker (perceived neck pain). The findings of this study will have a direct impact on policies underpinning the prevention and management of neck pain in office personnel.

2) Research: Comans, Raymer, O’Leary, Smith. Are physiotherapy led screening clinics cost effective in improving orthopaedic outpatient services? AusHSI Stimulus Grant. Organisations Affected: Queensland Health with direct relevance to other orthopaedic public health care facilities Changes: The findings of this study will be delivered to Hospital and Health Service Executives and their governing board who are responsible for the management and funding of specialist outpatient services. The results will guide their decision making concerning the optimal mix of service provision (Orthopaedic Physiotherapy Screening Clinics/Traditional care) within future orthopaedic health services. Similarly the results will be provided to, and be of great value to the Health Services and Clinical Innovation Division, which delivers state wide clinical support and coordination assistance to Hospital and Health Service's in their pursuit of elective surgery access targets.

Impact on Practice:

1) Research: O’Leary, McPhail, Comans, Raymer, Khan. Optimising patient selection and resource utilization for the non-surgical management of common orthopaedic conditions. RBWH Private Practice Trust Fund Grants. Organisations Affected: Queensland Health with direct relevance to all orthopaedic health facilities worldwide Changes: The Orthopaedic Physiotherapy Screening Clinic and Multidisciplinary Service within Queensland Health provides timely coordinated multidisciplinary non-surgical management to patients who previously endured extended periods on orthopaedic waiting lists. Our retrospective pilot study identified characteristics of patients managed in the service that predicted the success of their outcome. This warranted a comprehensive prospective study that will provide a fully informed clinical tool that will enable clinicians within the service to robustly screen suitability of patients to the service and importantly identify those patients unlikely to benefit from the service so that alternative management plans can be implemented. Therefore this study will directly enhance patient care and resource utilisation.

2) Research: Original research with direct clinical impact disseminated by Shaun O'Leary in physiotherapy educational curricula and seminars to clinicians nationally and internationally. Organisations Affected: University graduate and postgraduate physiotherapy programs. Physiotherapy education providers internationally. Public and private physiotherapy services. Changes: Shaun O'Leary's research has direct translation to clinical practice and is an intergral component of musculoskeletal physiotherapy educational curricula particularly with regard to the management of problematic neck disorders and the assessment and training of neck muscle function. Outcomes: Research findings are directly integrated into physiotherapy education curricula to improve the training of physiotherapists and subsequently patient outcomes.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland
  • Masters (Coursework) of Physiotherapy Studies, The University of Queensland
  • Bachelor of Physiotherapy, The University of Queensland


View all Publications


  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Master Philosophy

View all Supervision



Book Chapter

  • Worsfold, Chris , Lewis, Jeremy , Meeus, Mira , Jull, Gwendolen , O’Leary, Shaun , Lynch, Greg , Rosedale, Richard , Watson, Grant , McDowell, Jillian , Bill Vicenzino and Brian Mulligan (2022). Not a shoulder. The shoulder: theory and practice. (pp. 1-5) edited by César Fernandez-de-las-Peñas and Jeremy Lewis. Edinburgh, United Kingdom: Handspring Publishing.

  • Jull, Gwendolen, Falla, Deborah, O'Leary, Shaun and McCarthy, Christopher (2015). Cervical spine: idiopathic neck pain disorders. Grieve's modern musculoskeletal physiotherapy. (pp. 410-422) edited by Gwendolen Jull, Ann Moore, Deborah Falla, Jeremy Lewis, Christopher McCarthy and Michele Sterling. Edinburgh, United Kingdom: Elsevier.

  • Jull, G. A., Falla, D. L., Treleaven, J. M., Sterling, M. M. and O'Leary, S. P. (2004). A therapeutic exercise approach for cervical disorders. Grieve's Modern Manual Therapy. (pp. 451-470) edited by J. Boyling and G. Jull. Edinburgh, UK: Churchill Livingstone - Elsevier Science.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Master Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

Completed Supervision