Robert D Kerns Jr PhD

Professor of Psychiatry, of Neurology and of Psychology

Research Interests

Behavioral Medicine/Health Psychology; Pain and pain management; Healthcare disparities; Self-management of chronic disease

Current Projects

  • Pain Research, Informatics, Medical comorbidities, and Education (PRIME) Center: This VA Health Services R&D Center is funded to build capacity for pain-relevant health services research at VA Connecticut and Yale University
  • Implementing a VA stepped care model of pain management: This is a formative evaluation and implementation study that employs a mixed qualitative and quantitative approach to study processes and outcomes of organizational change
  • Cognitive-behavior therapy for peripheral diabetic neuropathic pain: This is the first RCT of cognitive behavior therapy for this highly prevalent and disabling condition.
  • Intensive treatment for chronic pain and PTSD among OEF/OIF Veterans: This is an RCT of a novel, integrative psychological intervention for these important comorbidities
  • Identifying aberrant drug-related behavior in patients receiving opioids and primary care provider motivation to use buprenorphine: This is a formative evaluation and implementation study of primary care providers' capacity to provide care for Veterans with opioid dependence and chronic pain

Research Summary

Research is broadly in the area of behavioral medicine with specific interests in fields of pain and pain management. Dr. Kerns is Principal Investigator of the Pain Research, Informatics, Medical comorbidities, and Education (PRIME) Center funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs that emphasizes the conduct of pain-relevant health services research that can inform policy, practice, and educational initiatives. The development of quality indicators for pain management is an overarching focus of research in this area. Several funded research projects are designed to evaluate the efficacy of self-management interventions for persistent pain including novel interventions that employ telehealth and other technologies to promote access and sustainability. Research informed by a motivational model of pain self-management explores moderators and mediators patient participation and outcomes and processes of change during these interventions.

Additional focuses include research related to the interface between pain and overweight/obesity, patient preferences for pain treatment, racial/ethnic and gender differences in the experience of pain and disparities in pain treatment, pain and prescription substance abuse, and medical and psychiatric comorbidities of pain.


Selected Publications

  • Haskell, S.G., Ning, Y., Krebs, E., Goulet, J., Mattocks, K., Kerns, R.D. & Brandt, C. (2012). The prevalence of painful musculoskeletal conditions in female and male Veterans in 7 years after return from deployment in Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom. Clinical Journal of Pain, 28, 163-167.
  • Dworkin, R.H., Turk, D.C., Peirce-Sandner, S., Burke, L.B., Farrar, J.T., Gilron, I., Jensen, M.P., Raja, S.N., Rappaport, B.A., Bellamy, N., Bhagwagar, Z., Costello, A., Cowan, P., Fang, w.C., Hertz, S., Jay, G.W., Junor, R., Kerns, R.D., Kerwin, R., Kopecky, E.A., Lissin, d., Malamut, R., Markman, J.d., McDermott, M.P., Munera, C., Porter, L., Rauschkolb, C., Rice, A.S.C., Sampaio, C., Skljarevski, V., Sommerville, k., Stacey, B.R., Steigerwald, I., Tobias, J., Trentacosti, A.M., Wasan,, A.D., Wells, G.A., Williams, J., Witter, J., Ziegler, D. (2012). Considerations for improving assay sensitivity in chronic pain clinical trials: IMMPACT recommendations. Pain, 153, 1148-1158.
  • Kerns, R.D., Sellinger, J.J., & Goodin, B. (2011). Psychological treatment of chronic pain. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 7, 411-434.
  • Kerns, R.D., Philip, E.J., Lee, A., & Rosenberger, P.R. (2011). Implementation of the Veterans Health Administration National Pain Management Strategy. Translational Behavioral Medicine, 1, 635-643.

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