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Denise Lester, MD

Anesthesiologist, Interventional Pain Management, Addictionologist

Director, Peripheral Nerve Stimulation Program Co-Director, Interventional Pain Research Diplomate, American Board Anesthesiology Diplomate, American Board Pain Medicine Diplomate, American Board Preventive Medicine, Addiction Medicine

Dr. Denise Lester is board certified in Anesthesiology, Pain Management and Addiction Medicine. She received her medical degree at New Jersey School of Medicine and completed her Anesthesiology Residency, Pain Management and Addiction Medicine training at Thomas Jefferson University Medical Center in Philadelphia. She is the Director of the Peripheral Nerve Stimulation Implant Program and the Co-Director of Interventional Pain Research at the Central Virginia VA Health Care System (CVHCS) in Richmond Virginia. Dr. Lester has been very active in pain management education and has been a primary attending teaching physician for the Virginia Commonwealth University Pain Fellowship for over 20 years during which she received multiple “faculty teaching excellence of the year” awards. She has been instrumental in leading pain research in the VHA peripheral nerve stimulator program and has instituted clinical peripheral nerve stimulation (PNS) programs for three of the five FDA-approved peripheral nerve stimulating implant devices. She has provided various types of spinal cord stimulation and peripheral nerve implantable neuromodulation for nearly 30 years of her VHA interventional pain practice.


She is the Vice Chair of the Institutional Review Board (IRB), an Alternate Chair of the Research & Development committee (R&D) and a board member of the McGuire Research Institute (overseeing all research funds/grants). She is currently the primary investigator on 7 peripheral nerve stimulator implant trials at CVHCS including an acute pain four year study evaluating the outcomes of placing peripheral nerve stimulators within one week of lower extremity amputation for management of acute and prevention of chronic post amputation pain, - a chronic pain retrospective review of a 5 year experience with peripheral nerve stimulation in chronic neuropathic pain syndromes , a multicenter trial evaluating the outcomes of placing peripheral nerve stimulators temporarily for the management of chronic lumbar pain and a national VHA multicenter trial evaluating various complementary alternative therapies for back pain in comparison to standard of care low back pain therapies. She is also currently an investigator on the use of spinal cord neuromodulation for assisting locomotion in paralyzed Veterans.


She has been a pain management physician at the Richmond VA Medical Center for over 29 years providing a multitude of pain treatments including, medication management, spinal cord stimulation, peripheral nerve stimulation, percutaneous spinal augmentation and discal procedures, percutaneous minimally invasive decompression, sympathetic blockades, intrathecal drug delivery systems and alternative therapies for pain. She is a primary author on the National VHA/DoD Clinical Workgroup Clinical Practice Guidelines on Upper Extremity Amputation Pain published April 2022. She has been spotlighted by the American Society of Anesthesiology for her years of volunteer community service as part of a federal program “Silent No More” providing education with a team throughout Virginia high schools on the opioid epidemic and the neurobiology of addiction. She is a Chair of the Federally Employed Women’s Committee and a member of the Federal Diversity, Inclusivity & Equity Committee. Her work in the field of pain and addiction is not solely within the VHA but is evidenced by several book chapters and published articles on pain management with a most recent publication involving her developing interest in artificial intelligence, spinal cord injury and robotic medicine for pain management.

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