About us

Dr. Kerry S. Kuehl

Legacy Member

Dr. Kerry S. Kuehl is an internal medicine physician specializing in sports and occupational medicine as it relates to improving wellness and safety in the workplace. As a Professor of Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University’s (OHSU), School of Medicine, he assumes many duties, which range from teaching, conducting research, providing clinical care to patients, and acting as an administrator in his role as Chief of Health Promotion and Sports Medicine. Dr. Kuehl is the Director of the Oregon Human Performance Laboratory, where he and his staff educate and train medical students, medical residents, and sports medicine fellows in exercise and nutrition as a medical therapy.

In addition to his clinical and academic work, Dr. Kuehl is the Medical and Wellness Director for Portland Fire & Rescue, where he provides medical and emergency services to nearly 700 career fire fighters in Portland, Oregon. He conducts the annual NFPA 1582 Comprehensive Medical Examination on all the departments’ members as well as conducting annual surveillance of injury, illness, disability, and worker compensation claims.

Dr. Kuehl has been a leading researcher in the area of fire fighter health and wellness for over two decades. His first National Institutes of Health (NIH) fire fighter grant was funded in 1998, and since that time he has been on the front lines with national and international fire personnel as a researcher and advisor to reduce fire fighter injury, illness, and fatality. He is fortunate to have been the recipient of multiple fire fighter research grants from the NIH, National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a principal investigator.

Most recently, Dr. Kuehl was a Co-Principal Investigator for the WFI Review Study conducted in 2021-22, where a team of researchers completed an extensive review of the IAFF/IAFC Joint Labor-Management Wellness Fitness Initiative (WFI), and presented the study findings at the WFI Task Force meeting for the upcoming 5th edition of the WFI. He and his team at the Oregon Human Performance Laboratory have just completed the FEMA funded Total Worker Health and Safety Program for Wildland Urban Interface and Wildland Fire Fighters, developing the first evidence-based wellness program aimed at improving the health and well-being of wildland fire fighters. Across his career, he has published over 100 scientific articles, including papers on the economic benefit of the PHLAME Fire Fighter Wellness Program, and 200 lay articles, all with the focus on prevention and treatment of sports and occupational injury and illness, and the role of exercise and nutrition as medical therapy.

In addition to his work producing new knowledge, Dr. Kuehl acts as an advisor and subject matter expert to fire service organizations in an effort to advance and grow the scope of health and wellness in the service. For example, he has served on the IAFF/IAFC Wellness Fitness Task Force since 1999, 2 years after its inception; he has sat on the physician panel for the NFPA 1582 Comprehensive Fire Fighter Medical Standards Committee; he currently sits on the John P. Redmond Health and Safety Symposium “Ask the Doc” physician panel, a seat he has held since 1999; and he assisted in the creation of the WFI 3rd and 4th editions, specifically on the sections pertaining to the cost justification of fire fighter wellness programs. Dr. Kuehl has been presenting fire fighter wellness research findings at local, regional, national, and international conferences since 1999, leaving an indelible influence on the landscape of health and wellness in the fire service.

Dr. Kuehl has been active all of his life. His participation in sports throughout school and college inspired a passion for exercise, which led him to a graduate degree in Exercise Physiology and to study how exercise impacts cardiovascular disease in both prevention and treatment. Heart disease runs in Dr. Kuehl’s family. His paternal grandfather and father died early from Coronary Artery Disease and his brother, who is 5 years older than him, has had 8 stents placed in his coronary arteries. Regular exercise not only prevents heart disease, but has been shown to be a major contributor in the treatment and prevention of multiple diseases such as diabetes, certain cancers, arthritis, mental disorders, glaucoma, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and obesity. So, what motivates Dr. Kuehl to be physically active is staying healthy to continue his outdoor recreational hobbies, prevent premature heart disease, and to reduce and manage stress. Plus, the endorphins released during exercise give him a natural high, making him happy.

Dr. Kuehl follows a regular exercise routine throughout the year, which he considers his basic, or minimum dose of exercise. His routine consists of three days per week, of one hour sessions broken up into 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at 70-80% of maximum heart rate, and 30 minutes of resistance training. In preparation for snow skiing season, he will add a day or two of specific exercise to improve his fitness and readiness to tackle the slopes. Dr. Kuehl also participates in many recreational sports including tennis, golf (he always endeavors to carry his clubs and walk the full 18 holes), swimming, cycling, and hiking.

Over the years he has adopted several behaviours which help him promote is personal wellness and fitness. Daily reading helps him with his mental and spiritual health. Eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, many of which come from his garden, supports his health and provides the energy necessary to meet his goals. With a Doctorate of Public Health in Nutrition, Dr. Kuehl is acutely aware of how nutrition can impact health status, and has published multiple studies on the effects of tart cherries on arthritis, sports injuries, fibromyalgia, and inflammation. Next, being active with his family is a mainstay in his life. He has enjoyed a happy, healthy marriage of 40 years to a Registered Nurse, is the father of 3 daughters, grandfather of 2 granddaughters, pet owner, outdoor enthusiast, and boater/sailor. Lastly, Dr. Kuehl is a volunteer and never intends on retiring. He serves on the board of a medical clinic that provide free access and medical care to the underserved and the underinsured, and assists with one or two international medical mission trips per year.

Reflecting on the experiences Dr. Kuehl has amassed over his career, in addition to the findings of the many investigations he has lead as a researcher, he would advise departments looking to invest in the wellness and fitness of their members in several ways. Firstly, they should build an organizational culture that supports wellness and supports the generational cultivation of wellness champions. Wellness is no longer optional. It is essential that departments recognize the need to protect their members, a fact that has been only reinforced by the challenges faced by first responders over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Kuehl would strongly reinforce that creating an enduring, wellness culture requires labor and management cooperation and should begin when members enter the service as new recruits and/or academy trainees.

Next, he would impress on departments the importance of collecting data and forming strategic partnerships. Data collection is key for documenting and identifying a department’s needs and is the first step in determining what level of support and/or funding is needed in the department. Armed with data, Dr. Kuehl would encourage departments to apply for grants such as SAFER and AFG, as well as engage local universities, local experts, and/or health clubs to build partnerships that can support desired services and programs without additional cost. Lastly, he would recommend departments to put mental health and stress related illnesses at the top of their priority list if they have not done so already. In Dr. Kuehl’s opinion the IAFF’s behavioral health services such as the Peer Support Program and The Center For Excellence should be leveraged by departments without hesitation to respond to, or prevent crises. Fire fighters are confronting an increasing list of stressors on the job related to the pandemic, social unrest, the homelessness crisis, and climate hazards, which have been amplified by staffing shortages. Dr. Kuehl would appeal to both labor and management to come together and find novel countermeasures to this growing problem, one of which could be making mental health and substance use assessments with trained personnel part of the annual NFPA medical exam.

For the individual fire fighter who is thinking about investing in their wellness and fitness, Dr. Kuehl would encourage them to make this pursuit a priority throughout their entire career. Fire-fighting is a highly arduous and stressful occupation, but at the same time is a highly rewarding and fulfilling career. First and foremost, a fire fighter must be able protect themselves on the inside and from the hazards of the job as much as is in their control. This in turn will allow a fire fighter to better protect their fellow brothers and sisters and to better serve their community. Dr. Kuehl would reinforce to members that the best way to ensure these objectives are achieved is by having fire fighters who are healthy, fit, and have a positive well-being. Perhaps most importantly, when a fire fighter is pursuing these outcomes they also put themselves in the best position to retire healthy and enjoy the fruits of their labor.


Our Team

Meet the passionate and knowledgeable people who support F2T operations and serve the mission of helping more fire fighters be more active more often.

View All