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VA Researchers Who Served: Dr. Cindy McGeary

South Texas Veterans Medical Center

September 28, 2022

Dr. Cindy McGeary is a clinical psychologist on a WOC appointment at the South Texas Veterans Medical Center. She served in the U.S. Air Force from 2002 to 2006.

Dr. Cindy McGeary is a clinical psychologist on a WOC appointment at the South Texas Veterans Medical Center. She served in the U.S. Air Force from 2002 to 2006.

Dr. Cindy McGeary, an Air Force Veteran, is a clinical psychologist on a WOC appointment at the South Texas Veterans Medical Center. She’s also an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Texas Health Science Center. Most of her research is with active-duty service members and Veterans. Her studies are funded by the University of Texas, but about half of them recruit from the South Texas VA. She has provided clinical psychological treatment to Veterans and service members suffering from traumatic brain injuries, chronic musculoskeletal pain, and PTSD. She served in the U.S. Air Force from 2002 to 2006, reaching the rank of captain and earning a commendation medal.



What motivated you to join the military?

My grandfather was in the Navy. I was also impressed with the training the Air Force offered psychologists. Honoring the military mission while furthering my education was an excellent fit for me personally and professionally. I completed an internship in clinical psychology at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas from 2002 to 2003 as a captain. I chose to complete my psychology training in the Air Force based upon the breadth and depth of training that was provided.



What inspired your research career?

While in the Air Force, I was lucky enough to serve at an air education and training command base—Lackland Air Force Base. Education and research were embedded in my day-to-day work life. Part of my job was to train psychologists and psychiatrists. As part of this, we often had small ongoing studies to track our patient population and their treatment outcomes to ensure improved care within the mental health clinic. I was able to develop a deep appreciation for the research that guided training efforts for psychology interns.



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

Yes, mentorship from a broad range of people, both active-duty and civilian, helped to guide the work I was most passionate about during my time in the military. That mentoring has followed me into my current career in academics. My mentors have included Dr. Alan Peterson, who is my current supervisor at the University of Texas Health Science Center, and Dr. Robert Gatchel, who I worked with at the University of Texas in Arlington.

Capt. Cindy McGeary was recognized as Company Grade Officer of the Quarter at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas in 2005.
Capt. Cindy McGeary was recognized as Company Grade Officer of the Quarter at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas in 2005.

Capt. Cindy McGeary was recognized as Company Grade Officer of the Quarter at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas in 2005.



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

I served at Lackland Air Force Base from 2002 to 2006. I then stayed in my position as a civilian for two more years after leaving the military. I served as the chief of training and research for the mental health clinic. I had the opportunity to supervise and train psychiatry and psychology residents as part of my regular military duties. It was a wonderful opportunity for me and led me to my current academic position at the University of Texas Health Science Center.



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

My research focus is primarily on chronic pain, TBI, and PTSD. My research has included Veterans and active-duty service members. I’ve been part of clinical research studies that have shown how behavioral treatments can improve functioning for Veterans. I feel very strongly about providing the best care to our Veterans and active-duty service members. I’m able to do this through my research.



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?

Absolutely. As a psychologist, I treat many people with chronic pain, TBI, and PTSD. I experience chronic pain myself. It’s very important to me to provide our Veterans and service members the best care available to treat these disorders. To do that most effectively, research must inform clinical practice.



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

I may no longer be in uniform. But my career has enabled me to continue to be part of the overall military mission and work toward helping those who are serving or who have served. I’m proud and humbled by the opportunity to continue to serve in this manner.



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

Certainly. Being a Veteran has allowed me to connect to the patients seen as part of my research. I have insight into what they’ve experienced over the course of their careers. That emotional tie and connection fuels my passion to continue to help Veterans through my research.



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

Persistence and a positive attitude can get you through most situations. Persistence is having the will to see things through even when it’s difficult or when others tell you that you cannot. In addition, others are much more likely to be willing to work with you if you have a positive attitude and are kind.



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

I have been involved with different research studies in VA for the last 15 years and have had the opportunity to meet and work with many wonderful people. I will consider myself lucky if I am able to do that for the next 15 years. I would like to further chronic pain research on an aging Veteran population in the future.



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