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VA Researchers Who Served: Dr. John Kindred

Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center

May 31, 2022

Dr. John Kindred, a biomedical researcher, has performed research on fatigue and mobility impairments in people with multiple sclerosis and in stroke recovery.

Dr. John Kindred, a biomedical researcher, has performed research on fatigue and mobility impairments in people with multiple sclerosis and in stroke recovery.

Dr. John Kindred, a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, is a research health science specialist at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina. As a biomedical researcher, he has performed research on fatigue and mobility impairments in people with multiple sclerosis and in stroke recovery. He measures nervous system behavior in response to non-invasive brain stimulation and employs therapies to restore nervous system function after injury. He’s also a research associate in the division of physical therapy at the Medical University of South Carolina and has authored or co-authored more than 20 peer-reviewed papers. He served on active duty in the Marines from 1998 to 2007. His military honors include the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal.

What motivated you to join the military?

I wanted to join the United States Marine Corps (USMC) to challenge myself in ways I had never been challenged before. I also wanted to gain valuable skills that I could use in a future career. The USMC provided me with ample opportunities to grow personally and professionally. I would not be as successful as I am today without being a Marine.

What inspired your research career?

My college attendance was mostly funded by the GI Bill. I wanted to major in something that would accept as many of the credits as possible that I earned while on active duty. That led me to get my degree in exercise science from the University of South Carolina. Several professors inspired me to pursue a career in biomedical research during my undergraduate studies. Because of them, I decided to pursue a doctorate at Colorado State University and was able to receive two career development awards from the VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Service.

Did you have mentors who inspired you in life, the military, or your research career?

Dr. Larry Durstine was a major influence in my research career. He was one of my professors during my undergraduate studies. His love and passion for exercise science, and the influence of his students, drove me to pursue a master’s and doctoral degree in biomedical research. Without his support and guidance, I may never have pursued a career as a scientist.

John Kindred aboard the USS Essex, an amphibious assault ship, in 2001.
John Kindred aboard the USS Essex, an amphibious assault ship, in 2001.

John Kindred aboard the USS Essex, an amphibious assault ship, in 2001.

When and where did you serve in the military? Describe your military experience.

I enlisted in the USMC right after graduating from Durango High School in Durango, Colorado. I went to boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego and subsequently went to Pensacola, Florida, for job training. Most of my time on active duty was spent in the Pacific theater. I was stationed in Okinawa, Japan; Twentynine Palms, California; and Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. I deployed several times to South Korea and the Philippines.

What kinds of research are you involved in? How does it potentially impact Veterans?

I do clinical research that is primarily focused on fatigue in neurological conditions. The type of fatigue I study refers to a feeling of tiredness that does not go away with sleep or rest and negatively impacts the ability of Veterans to participate fully in social and physical activities. Not much is known about the causes of this type of fatigue. This lack of knowledge contributes to the absence of effective treatments available to Veterans. Acquiring a better understanding of the causes and consequences of fatigue in neurological conditions may facilitate the development of effective treatments that can be deployed throughout the VA health care system.

Did your military experience inspire you to pursue a career as a VA researcher? Is your military experience connected in some way to your VA research?

As a Marine, I was tasked with interpreting the meaning behind electrical signals. As a scientist who focuses on the nervous system, I still interpret electrical signals but in a much different way.

How do you feel about the possibility of making life better for Veterans through your research?

Improving life for Veterans is one of the cornerstones of my research program. At the end of the day, I work for Veterans. I hope to dedicate the next few decades of my life to the health and well-being of Veterans with neurological conditions.

Does being a Veteran give you a greater emotional tie to the work you’re doing or more insight into Veterans’ needs?

Being a Veteran scientist absolutely provides greater meaning to my work. I pursued a career in research because I wanted to work on complex problems that would test my mental fortitude. Knowing that I may develop knowledge or treatments to help my fellow Veterans gives me a deep feeling of satisfaction and drives me to be the best VA employee I can be. The possibility of my work helping a Veteran who I served is one of the greatest motivations a VA employee can have.

Based on your life experiences to date, what do you believe are the keys to success? What motivational tips would you share?

I think the number one thing about achieving success is to define success by your own standards. Knowing and understanding what it is you want to achieve without comparing yourself to others allows you to focus on the things that you have control over. Once you have determined what constitutes success, you can begin pursuing those goals without distraction. You should have a strong belief in your abilities and work hard to realize your goals, knowing there will always be setbacks and bumps in the road. Finding and establishing a strong support system that believes in you and is invested in your success is also an important part of achieving your goals and ambitions. Teamwork is a pivotal part of military success and an integral part of success in the civilian world.

What’s the next step for you in your VA career?

My next step is to begin applying for independent VA research funding and establishing my own VA research laboratory. I will also seek out additional career development opportunities so I can help advance VA’s research mission as a scientist and administrator.

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