Robert D Kerns, Jr, PhD

Professor of Psychiatry, of Neurology and of Psychology

Departments & Organizations



Office of Student Research

Psychiatry: Mental Health Services Research, Division of | Pain Research, Informatics, Multimorbidities, and Education (PRIME) Center | Psychology Section


Dr. Robert D. Kerns is National Director for Pain Research for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), Director of the Pain Research, Informatics, Multimorbidities, and Education (PRIME) Center at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, and Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Psychology at Yale University. He received his bachelor’s degree in Psychology from West Virginia University in 1974 and his doctorate in Bioclinical Psychology from Southern Illinois University in 1980. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, and he has held leadership positions in these and other professional and scientific societies.

He is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2006 Leadership Award from the Association of VA Psychologist Leaders, the 2006 David M. Worthen Award for Academic Excellence and the 2006 Mark Wolcott Award for Clinical Leadership from the VHA, and the 2010 John and Emma Bonic Public Service Award from the American Pain Society. He serves on the editorial board of several scientific journals, including the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Clinical Journal of Pain, Health Psychology, Pain Medicine, Psychological Services, and Cancer Pain and Palliative Care. He was a member of the Institute of Medicine Committee on Advancing Pain Research, Care and Education, and he is currently a member of the National Pain Management Oversight Panel that will develop an action plan for enacting the recommendations of the IOM Committee. He is also co-chair of the Federal Interagency Workgroup on Opioid-related Adverse Drug Events.

Dr. Kerns’ primary area of scholarly and academic interest is in the fields of behavioral medicine and health psychology, with a more specific interest and expertise in the area of pain and pain management. He has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles, chapters, and books, and he frequently delivers invited addresses at professional and scientific meetings. His research has been funded through the VA and through other federal and private sources for over 30 years. His current research focuses on use of large datasets from VHA to study pain and pain care among veterans, especially age, gender, and race/ethnicity differences and disparities; mechanisms and processes of change during psychological interventions for chronic pain; use of innovative technologies to promote access and fidelity of non-pharmacological pain interventions; and formative evaluation and implementation of organizational improvement initiatives in pain care.

Education & Training

PhD Southern Illinois University (1980)

Honors & Recognition

  • Bonica Professorship and LecturerUniversity of Washington (2011)

  • John and Emma Bonica Public Service AwardAmerican Pain Society (2010)

  • Pfizer Visiting ProfessorshipAmerican Academy of Pain Medicine (2009)

  • Patient Advocacy AwardAmerican Academy of Pain Medicine (2008)

  • 2006 Mark Wolcott Award for Clinical LeadershipVeterans Health Administration (2007)

  • 2006 David M Worthen Award for Academic ExcellenceVeterans Health Administration (2007)

  • 2006 Leadership AwardAssociation of VA Psychologist Leaders (2006)

Professional Service

  • Member, Division of Health Psychology, Board of Directors American Psychological Association (2013 - 2016)

  • National Pain Management Oversight Panel National Institutes of Health/Health and Human Services (2013)

  • Federal Interagency Workgroup on Adverse Drug Events - Opioids Health and Human Services (2012)

  • Pain Management Curriculum Committee School of Medicine (2012)

  • American Pain Society Clinical Centers of Excellence Committee American Pain Society (2012 - 2015)

  • Executive Committee Analgesic, Anesthetic, and Addictions Clinical Trials Translation, Innovation and Opportunities Network (2012)

  • Health Psychology (2010)

  • Annals of Behavioral Medicine (2010)

  • Executive Committee VA Polytrauma/Blast-related Injury QuERI (2006)

  • Tenured Faculty Committee Department of Psychiatry (2003)

  • Board of Permanent Officers Yale University School of Medicine (2003)

  • Editorial Board Psychological Services (2003)

  • Editorial Board Journal of Cancer Pain and Symptom Palliation (2003)

  • Editorial Board Pain Medicine (2002)

  • Editorial Board Clinical Journal of Pain (1995)

  • Professional Advisory Board American Chronic Pain Association (1993)

International Activity

  • Multidimensional Pain Readiness to Change Questionnaire Canada (2008)

    The present study describes further development of the Multidimensional Pain Readiness to Change Questionnaire (MPRCQ.V2), a measure of readiness to adopt a variety of pain management and coping strategies commonly taught in multidisciplinary treatment programs.

  • Pain Readiness Norway (2008 - 2012)

    A series of projects designed to further assess the predictive validity and utility of the pain readiness to change model, particularly among persons with arthritis.

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Contact Info

Robert D Kerns, Jr, PhD
Mailing Address
PRIME Center/11ACSLGVA Connecticut Heathcare System
950 Campbell Avenue

West Haven, CT 06516

Curriculum Vitae

Pain Research, Informatics, Multimorbidities, and Education (PRIME) Center