Robert D Kerns Jr PhD

Professor of Psychiatry, of Neurology and of Psychology

Biographical Info

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.

International Activity

  • Multidimensional Pain Readiness to Change Questionnaire
    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.

Education & Training

Southern Illinois University (1980)

Honors & Recognition

  • 2006 Leadership Award
    Association of VA Psychologist Leaders (2006)
  • 2006 David M Worthen Award for Academic Excellence
    Veterans Health Administration (2007)
  • 2006 Mark Wolcott Award for Clinical Leadership
    Veterans Health Administration (2007)
  • Patient Advocacy Award
    American Academy of Pain Medicine (2008)
  • Pfizer Visiting Professorship
    American Academy of Pain Medicine (2009)
  • John and Emma Bonica Public Service Award
    American Pain Society (2010)
  • Bonica Professorship and Lecturer
    University of Washington (2011)

Professional Service

  • Member, VA Polytrauma/Blast-related Injury QuERI (2006)
  • Member, Psychological Services (2003)
  • Member, Journal of Cancer Pain and Symptom Palliation (2003)
  • Senior Editor, Pain Medicine (2002)
  • Member, Clinical Journal of Pain (1995)
  • Member, American Chronic Pain Association (1993)
  • Co-Chair, Health and Human Services (10/01/2012)
  • Member at Large, American Psychological Association (09/01/2013 - 08/31/2016)
  • Member, National Institutes of Health/Health and Human Services (07/01/2013)
  • Editorial Board(07/01/2010)
  • Editorial Board(07/01/2010)
  • Chair, American Pain Society (05/01/2012 - 04/30/2015)
  • Member, Analgesic, Anesthetic, and Addictions Clinical Trials Translation, Innovation and Opportunities Network (01/01/2012)

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