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

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?

Driving across the country in a pandemic

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Driving halfway across the country may not seem enticing these days, but at the moment traveling by car is arguably safer than traveling by plane. If you’re considering a road trip, some planning will make things easier — and safer.

Bracing for contact tracing

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

As states reopen, contact tracing — locating and testing people known to have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 — will be an important tool to help contain further spread of illness. But how does it work, and what do you need to know about it?

When dieting doesn’t work

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Most diets can help you lose weight, but that weight is frequently regained within a few months — a fact supported by an analysis of more than 100 research trials on diets. But losing weight is easier, and more likely to be permanent, if you choose a diet with foods you actually like.

Some healthcare can safely wait (and some can’t)

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Some routine or elective healthcare can safely wait a while, but putting off medical care for certain health conditions or potentially serious problems is risky.

And now for some good news on health

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Good news on health –– which seems hard to come by right now –– includes declines in the rates of six out of 10 major causes of death in the United States.

Harvard Health Ad Watch: An arthritis ad in 4 parts

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

An ad for the rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira is accurate about how the medication can help some people be more active, but as with most drug ads, there are also things left unsaid or expressed in ways worth questioning.

More sexual partners, more cancer?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

A study of older adults found that those who had had more sexual partners were more likely to have developed cancer, but that does not mean there is a causal connection, and there are many ways that sexual behavior can affect cancer risk.

As the pandemic drags on, when can we get back to work?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

As the coronavirus pandemic stretches on, many people wonder when they can go back to their workplaces. The answers may depend on where a person lives and works, findings from antibody tests, and other factors.