Family Medicine

Roberta Goldman, PhD

Cultural Anthropologist, Clinical Professor, Family Medicine, Adjunct Professor of Social and Behavioral Science, Harvard Chan School of Public Health


PhD, MA, University of Florida; BA, State University of New York - Albany

Dr. Goldman is a cultural anthropologist specializing in the sub-discipline of medical anthropology, with particular expertise in qualitative methods of research. She speaks Spanish and Portuguese, and has done research in the Portuguese Azores Islands, Peru, Mexico and Alaska, as well as among Latino, Cape Verdean, Portuguese, African American, West Indian and non-Hispanic White groups in the US. Her research interests include issues relevant to health and illness in the contexts of urban poverty, social determinants of health, immigration and adjusting to life in the US. Her research has included an ethnographic study among Cape Verdean health center patients in Pawtucket and Central Falls; cancer prevention among Dominicans and Puerto Ricans in Rhode Island; perceptions of cholesterol, CVD and COPD risk among patients in Rhode Island and Boston; social factors relating to substance use among Black and Latino youth in Providence, RI; perceptions of wellness among diverse adults in three age groups, nationally; new approaches to measurement of chronic pain; patient-centered outcomes of bariatric surgery; recent presentations of headache among returning soldiers; transition to increasing use of electronic health record technology in the primary care setting; cancer prevention among construction laborers, diverse employees of small businesses, and residents of subsidized housing; use of interactive online technology to study menopause and disease prevention at mid-life among Latinas in RI; medication safety among English- and Spanish-speaking older adults; physician-patient communication in second-opinion hematology-oncology consultations; social and cultural influences on Rhode Islanders’ perspectives of biospecimen donation for research; follow-up of abnormal mammogram results among Latinos and Haitians; use of electronic health record alerts and automated voice-recognition software to enhance management of diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, pediatric obesity, and laboratory monitoring; and sugary soft drink consumption among college freshman, pregnant women, and toddlers. She has also conducted multiple health services studies involving evaluation of innovative forms of interprofessional healthcare programming, and the transition of primary care settings along the Patient-Centered Medical Home model. 

In our department and residency, Dr. Goldman teaches physician-patient communication and cross-cultural health care, and co-directs the Program in Scholarly Development. At Alpert Medical School of Brown University, she mentors students in the Primary Care/Population Medicine program for their masters degree qualitative research, and she leads a community immersion in Central Falls for family medicine clerkship students. At the Harvard School of Public Health, she teaches the course, “Qualitative Research Methods for Public Health Interventions.” She has for many years and continues to mentor numerous undergraduate and medical students, residents, fellows and faculty from both institutions in the design and conduct of qualitative studies. She serves as chair of the department’s faculty promotion committee.