Photo of Mathilda Björk

Mathilda Björk

Deputy Head of Department, Professor

My driving force is a desire to understand and to develop. It is a privilege to be able to ask questions and search for answers, to reflect and hopefully contribute new knowledge that will improve rehabilitation and reduce functional impairment.

Rehabilitation in a process of change

Early care measures and biological pharmaceuticals have greatly improved the situation of persons with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, many of them still feel restricted in their demanding everyday lives which indicates there is still a need for rehabilitation.

Today, just over 50 % of RA patients are in employment three years after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. This figure can be compared with 30 % in a similar follow-up of patients who became ill in the 1990s. At that time, early care measures had just been introduced and biological pharmaceuticals were not available. However, although the situation has improved for many patients, the TIRA (Early Measures for Rheumatoid Arthritis) project, with its unique possibility to compare, from a broad perspective, the functional impairment of today’s patients with those who fell ill in the 1990s, shows that many patients today report functional impairments and say they feel restricted by the disease insofar as they cannot do the things they would really like to do. This can be anything from lifting up a saucepan or playing with a grandchild to coping with their life situation or taking part in a sports event. Sometimes, these perceived restrictions seem strange since they exist even though, for instance, the activity of the disease is low and medication is functioning well.

In our research team, we have focused on mapping how and to what degree today’s patients feel restricted in their everyday lives and thereby feel they cannot participate or be involved in the way they would like. My vision for the future is that we will become even better at meeting the needs of patients and their family members and be able to offer tailor-made rehabilitation where the patient is the undisputed central figure.

Research theme

Rheumatism patients’ ability to participate

The research theme includes the following research projects:

  • Functional impairment of people with RA today
  • Important Activities of Life

Other research projects

  • Early Measures for Rheumatoid Arthritis (TIRA) project
  • Member of the steering committee for the project
  • National Register of Pain Rehabilitation (NRS) research team Clinical LUpus Register in Nordöstra Götaland (KLURING)


  • Programme manager Occupational Therapist programme
  • Supervisor of theses at first and second-cycle level

Qualifications, appointments and awards


Study programmes

  • 2000 Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy, Linköping University
  • 2008 Doctor of Medical Science, Linköping University
  • 2013 Docent in Occupational Therapy, Jönköping University

Positions of employment

  • 2000-2002 Licensed occupational therapist at Region Östergötland
  • 2003-2008 Doctoral student at Vårdalinstitutet and Linköping University
  • 2008-2013 University lecturer at the School of Health and Welfare in Jönköping
  • 2010 Postdoc position at the University of California, San Francisco
  • 2010-2011 Postdoc position at Sahlgrenska Academy
  • 2013-2015 Occupational therapist Region Östergötland
  • 2013-2015 Adjunct lecturer at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (IMH)
  • 2015- Associate Professor Linköping University in combination with Region Östergötland
  • 2017 - Subject representative for Occupational therapy
  • 2020 - Deputy Head of Department at HMV


  • Member of the Swedish Rheumatism Association’s research council 2014-
  • Vice Chairperson of Svenskt Reumatologiskt Forum (SveReFo) (Twitter: sverefo) 2014-.
  • Member of the Early Measures for Rheumatoid Arthritis (TIRA) steering committee.
  • Member of the Swedish Association of Occupational Therapists’ committee for locomotive organ diseases.
  • Principal supervisor for doctoral student and licensed occupational therapist Frida Svanholm at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (HMV)
  • Assistant supervisor for occupational therapist Thuy Tran, Curtin University, Perth, Australia.


  • The Swedish Rheumatism Association’s diploma for rheumatological research 2013.
  • Prize for best scholarly poster at Reumadagarna in Örebro 2014.
  • Prize for best scholarly poster at Reumadagarna in Tylösand 2015.





Collaboration with researchers in Occupational therapy