Robert Kerns, PhD

Professor of Psychiatry, of Neurology and of Psychology

Departments & Organizations

Psychiatry: Division of Mental Health Services | Psychology Section


Drug use, Addiction, and HIV Research Scholars (DAHRS)

Office of Cooperative Research


Dr. Robert D. Kerns is Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Psychology at Yale University.  He is one of three directors of the Yale-based NIH-DoD-VA Pain Management Collaboratory Coordinating Center.  He recently retired from VA Connecticut Healthcare System (VACHS) and service to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) following a nearly 38 year career during which time he served as VACHS Chief of Psychology (1987-2008) and founding Director of the Pain Research, Informatics, Multimorbidities and Education (PRIME) Center of Innovation (2008-2016), and as VA National Program Director for Pain Management (2006-2013). 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, and Psychological Services. He was a member of the Institute of Medicine Committee on Advancing Pain Research, Care and Education and National Pain Management Strategy Oversight Panel that developed a National Pain Strategy for transforming pain care in America. He also served as co-chair of the Federal Interagency Workgroup that produced a National Action Plan for Prevention of 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 250 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, the National Institutes of health and through other federal and private sources for over 35 years. His current research focuses on use of large datasets from VA to study pain and pain care among veterans, especially age, gender, and race/ethnicity differences and disparities; developing informatics solutions for extracting information from unstructured electronic health record notes, 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

  • Nathan W. Perry, Jr. Award for Career Service to Health PsychologySociety for Health Psychology, American Psychological Association (2016)

  • Distinguished Psychologist for Scientific AchievementPsychology Service, VA Connecticut Healthcare System (2016)

  • Presidential CitationAmerican Psychological Association (2014)

  • 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

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

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

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

  • School of Medicine (2012 - Present) Pain Management Curriculum Committee

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

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

  • Health Psychology (2010 - Present) Editorial Board

  • Annals of Behavioral Medicine (2010 - Present) Editorial Board

  • Department of Psychiatry (2003 - Present) Tenured Faculty Committee

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

  • Pain Medicine (2002 - Present) Senior Editor

  • Clinical Journal of Pain (1995 - Present) Editorial Board

  • American Chronic Pain Association (1993 - Present) Professional Advisory Board


  • 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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