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.

Twitter: @RobShmerling


Posts by Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Are antidepressants also pain relievers?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Antidepressant medications are frequently prescribed for chronic pain, particularly neck or low back pain and certain types of arthritis — though other treatments are usually tried first. An analysis of past research considered how effective antidepressants are for these types of pain, but the results are not encouraging.

Do vitamin D, zinc, and other supplements help prevent COVID-19 or hasten healing?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Certain vitamins and supplements have long been promoted as having benefits for the immune system, which has led some to believe they may have similar effects on COVID-19 — and some doctors have been prescribing them. But so far, study results have not been encouraging.

Harvard Health Ad Watch: Mitochondria do a lot for you — what can you do for them?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Mitochondria are the power stations in our cells that convert nutrients into energy, and research suggests that they play a key role in aging and immune function. Ads for a line of supplements claim that the product renews or replenishes mitochondria –– but is there any scientific proof of this?

Zero weight loss from zero calorie drinks? Say it ain’t so

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Trying to cut back on calories by drinking diet soda or flavored sparkling water may not help with weight loss, and some research suggest it may actually lead to weight gain. But why, and what are the alternatives?

You got the COVID-19 vaccine? I have vaccine envy

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Got vaccine envy? Not only has the pandemic upended our lives, differing state priorities and restrictions on eligibility for highly effective COVID-19 vaccines are fueling feelings of jealousy and unfairness that encourage questionable actions and ethics.

Does your health monitor have device bias?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

The accuracy of health monitoring devices available to consumers varies, and in some instances skin tone may make a difference –– a problem called device bias. Yet proper function of such devices can have significant implications for the health of those using them.

Flowers, chocolates, organ donation — are you in?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

February 14th is more than Valentine’s Day –– it’s also National Donor Day, when health organizations sponsor sign-ups for organ and tissue donation. For those in need, such a donation can be life-changing — or lifesaving. If you wonder what can be donated or how, read on.

COVID-19 vaccines: Safety, side effects — and coincidence

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

As the pandemic rages on, rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines is welcome news since widespread vaccination is essential to help contain it. But while many are scrambling to get a vaccine, others hesitate due to concerns about effectiveness and safety.

Harvard Health Ad Watch: Can an arthritis drug help you become a morning person?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

An ad for an arthritis medication seems to suggest that taking it will alleviate or even eliminate morning stiffness, allowing you to hop out of bed. Like most drug ads, this one has unspoken messages and glosses over questions about side effects and cost.

Are early detection and treatment always best?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

The culture of American medicine has long believed and supported the idea that more early detection and treatment is best. But some testing is costly, invasive and carries needless risks, and some conditions go away on their own. Early detection and treatment can be lifesaving — just not for every health issue.