Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Robert H. Shmerling, MD, is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston. He served for more than two decades as the Robinson Firm Chief in the teaching program of the BIDMC internal medicine residency. As a practicing rheumatologist for over 30 years, Dr. Shmerling engaged in a mix of patient care, teaching, and research. His practice included challenging patients, both in the clinic and the inpatient consultation service. His research interests center on diagnostic studies in patients with musculoskeletal symptoms, rheumatic, and autoimmune diseases. He has published research regarding infectious arthritis and how well diagnostic tests perform in patients with suspected rheumatic disease. Having retired from patient care in 2019, Dr. Shmerling now works as a Senior Faculty Editor for Harvard Health Publishing.


Posts by Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Stopping osteoarthritis: Could recent heart research provide a clue?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Currently no medication can slow the progress of osteoarthritis. And while a reanalysis of a study of people with heart disease suggests a promising approach, more definitive research will be necessary to confirm this.

New guidelines for aches, pains, and strains

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

When a minor injury leads to soreness or discomfort, what’s the best first treatment choice? The American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Family Physicians recently developed new recommendations based on reviews of more than 200 studies involving nearly 33,000 subjects.

Harvard Health Ad Watch: A feel-good message about a diabetes drug

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

An advertisement for a medication for type 2 diabetes presents a positive message about how it can help people with the condition control their blood sugar, but as with most drug ads, that’s not the whole story.

Does diet really matter when it comes to adult acne?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Does what you eat affect whether or not you get acne? This has been debated for a long time. A survey of the dietary habits of more than 24,000 older adults suggests that people who eat a diet high in fat and sugar are more likely to develop adult acne.

Which test is best for COVID-19?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

So much about testing for COVID-19 is confusing — from the types and number of tests available to woefully incomplete information about testing and the changing options. Understanding the current choices can help you make an informed decision about how to proceed if you want to be tested.

Wondering about goosebumps? Of course you are

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

What are goosebumps? Why do we get them? Do they serve a purpose? Some of these questions can be answered, others can’t. But a recent study in mice links goosebumps to stem cells responsible for the regeneration of hair.

Avoiding COVID-19 when following the guidelines seems impossible

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

By now people understand the measures intended to prevent the spread of coronavirus, yet people with certain conditions may not be able to follow these guidelines. Here are some suggestions that may help.

Metabolic syndrome is on the rise: What it is and why it matters

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Because metabolic syndrome boosts the risk of developing several serious health problems, a troubling rise in rates of occurrence of metabolic syndrome among certain segments of the US population is of great concern.

Daily decisions about risk: What to do when there’s no right answer

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

With COVID-19 cases still rising in many places, all of us must make daily decisions involving personal risk. But often, there’s no single right answer that applies to everyone. Here’s how to make sensible decisions around many different activities.

The plight of nursing home residents in a pandemic

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Many nursing homes have had high rates of illness and deaths from COVID-19 and efforts to keep residents safer have caused widespread isolation. As states loosen restrictions, what does the path forward look like?