Office of Research & Development
Office of Research & Development
Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital
May 25, 2018
Dr. John Ney is a neurologist and a clinical neurophysiologist at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts.
Dr. John Ney, an Army Veteran, is a neurologist and a clinical neurophysiologist at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts. He previously worked at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Washington state. His research interests are in the cost and delivery of care and technologies to VA and non-VA patients suffering from headache pain, neuropathy, seizures, and other conditions. He has authored dozens of peer-reviewed articles on those topics. Ney, who is also an assistant professor of neurology at Boston University, received the President’s Research Initiative Award from the American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medine in 2010. For part of his service in the Army, he was a battalion surgeon in a combat setting in Afghanistan. He earned the Combat Medical Badge and the Bronze Star.
What motivated you to join the military?
As an Eagle Scout, I enjoyed the opportunities for leadership and camaraderie that military service affords. I was also interested in military service to pay for medical school.
What inspired your research career?
I was always interested in figuring out the reasons behind doing what we do. I also wanted to determine if our interventions and technologies actually work in the real world outside of randomized clinical trials or idealized lab conditions.
Did you have mentors who inspired you in life, the military, or your research career?
Dr. William Campbell inspired me with his curiosity, dedication to patient care, and innovation in research. He began as an Air Force physician, before having an outstanding academic and private practice career in neurology. He returned to Army service in his later years and finished as chief of neurology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Dr. Bahman Jabbari, who served 30 years in the Army after training in neurology, is a brilliant clinical neurophysiologist who went on to become a professor at Yale after completion of service. He was a very important mentor on some of my first papers. Dr. Jeffrey Jarvik, a neuroradiologist and health services researcher at the University of Washington, and Drs. Sean Sullivan and Lou Garrison, economists in the school of pharmacy at the University of Washington, were among my mentors during my clinical research fellowship. They taught me a lot about health services and cost-effectiveness research. I continue to have great mentors at the American Academy of Neurology in Drs. Neil Busis, Marc Raphaelson, and Joel Kaufman.
Among other assignments during his Army career, Dr. John Ney served as a battalion surgeon at Forward Operating Base Ghazni in Afghanistan.
When and where did you serve in the military? Describe your military experience.
I served five years active duty at Walter Reed Army Medical Center [now Walter Reed National Military Medical Center], where I did my internship, residency, and fellowship. I was chief of clinical neurophysiology at the Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Washington. I also served in Afghanistan as a battalion surgeon at Forward Operating Base Ghazni and Forward Operating Base Sharana for the greater part of a year. In Afghanistan, I learned how to conduct medicine in very austere conditions, without access to nursing, lab work, or blood in a very up-tempo combat environment.
What kinds of research are you involved in? How does it potentially impact Veterans?
I’m involved in cost-effectiveness research and health services research on various topics. They include Veteran homelessness; VA care of refractory schizophrenia, which applies to patients who continue to experience schizophrenia symptoms despite treatment with drugs; and the impact of neurologists on the costs and quality of care for headaches and other conditions.
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?
I began my research career in the military as a principal investigator for a project with Dr. Bahman Jabbari that called for using botulinum toxin [Botox] for low back pain. Throughout my career, I’ve wanted to improve care by eliminating ineffective health care practices and focusing on the services that really work. I’ve focused on improving quality of life for our military personnel during active duty and after discharge from service. VA has afforded me excellent opportunities to pursue those goals.
How do you feel about the possibility of making life better for Veterans through your research?
Helping Veterans is extremely important to me, especially with the many changes taking place in the delivery of care to the Veteran community. Service to country is the highest calling, and those who served should be treated with the utmost respect and care for injuries incurred during their service.
Does being a Veteran give you a greater emotional tie to the work you’re doing or more insight into Veterans’ needs?
Absolutely. This is a recurrent theme in my clinic. My service in combat leads to an instant rapport with many of my patients. I feel that I’m better able to establish a therapeutic bond that translates into better medication compliance and adherence to recommendations, both of which lead to better health outcomes for the Vets who I treat.
Based on your life experiences to date, what do you believe are the keys to success? What motivational tips would you share?
I would say follow your intuition. Don’t just sit back and let things happen to you. If something seems wrong or problematic, then figure out what is causing it and what can be done to correct it. Also, make a daily effort to learn something new.
What’s the next step for you in your VA career?
I’m working with our HSR&D center at the Edith Nourse Rogers VA on the evaluation of care in the community for Veterans. I’m also working to improve specialist physician care at my VA. On a national level, I’m working with the American Academy of Neurology on health services research initiatives.