David Roberson, MD, FACS

David Roberson, MD

Associate in Otolaryngology

Associate Professor of Otology and Laryngology, Harvard Medical School

    Contact: 617-355-0668
  • Fax: 617-730-061

Medical Services


  • Hearing Disorders
  • Otolaryngology
  • Branchial cleft anomalies
  • Thyroglossal Duct Cyst


  • Otolaryngology and Communication Enhancement


  • English


  • Otolaryngology Program

Conditions Treated

  • Cholesteatoma
  • Airway Obstruction
To schedule an appointment: Call 617-355-0668 or Request an Appointment
David Roberson, MD, FACS


I became an otolaryngologist because I was fascinated and thrilled with the complex anatomy and physiology of the head and neck, and because otolaryngology often offers the opportunity to substantially improve a patient’s life.  I went into pediatric otolaryngology primarily because I enjoy hanging out with children.  My goal is to provide great care and great communication to every child and their family.  This can be a challenge in our modern, fast-paced health care system but I do my best. 

Children often have a natural fear of seeing a doctor, particularly a stranger.  If I can help your child feel a bit more comfortable, it makes my day.

Experience and Education



Princeton University, 1981

Medical School

University of North Carolina, 1988

Chapel Hill, NC


Virginia Mason Hospital, 1989-1990

Seattle, WA


University Hospital, Seattle, 1991-1995

Seattle, WA


Boston Children's Hospital, 1995-1996

Boston, MA


  • American Board of Otolaryngology

Professional History

I graduated from Princeton University in 1988, and then spent 2.5 years teaching Math and Science in the Peace Corps in rural Nepal.  I trained at the University of North Carolina, spent a research year in Seattle, and then completed internship and residency in Seattle.  I did my pediatric otolaryngology fellowship at Boston Children's Hospital in 1996, and have been on the faculty here since.

During my residency and for the first 8 years in Boston, I worked in basic science labs studying hair cell protection and regeneration in the inner ear. Since 2003, my main academic interest has been in patient safety and quality.  I was the Director of Implementation for the Quality program at Boston Children’s for 8 years.  I was co-chair of the American Academy of Otolaryngology Patient Safety and Quality committee from 2009 – 2015 and remain a consultant to that committee.  I am the chair of my department’s quality committee, where we have numerous active projects to improve care and the patient experience within our department.


Publications powered by Harvard Catalyst Profiles
  1. Yuen S, Kawai K, Roberson DW, Murray R. Do post-tonsillectomy patients who report bleeding require observation if no bleeding is present on exam?. Submitted to International Journal of Pediatric Otolaryngology. 2016.
  2. McGrath BA, Lynch J, Bonvento B, Wallace S, Poole V, Farrell, Diaz C, and Roberson DW. Evaluating the quality improvement impact of the Global Tracheostomy Collaborative in four diverse NHS hospitals. Accepted by BMJ Quality, Safety, and Health Care. 2016.
  3. Murray R, Logvinenko T, Roberson D. Frequency and cause of readmissions following pediatric otolaryngologic surgery. Laryngoscope. 2016 Jan; 126(1):199-204.
  4. Adil E, Tarshish Y, Roberson D, Jang J, Licameli G, Kenna M. The Public Health Impact of Pediatric Deep Neck Space Infections. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015 Dec; 153(6):1036-41.
  5. McCormick ME, Ward E, Roberson DW, Shah RK, Stachler RJ, Brenner MJ. Life after Tracheostomy: Patient and Family Perspectives on Teaching, Transitions, and Multidisciplinary Teams. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015 Dec; 153(6):914-20.
  6. Shah RK, Brereton J, Roberson DW. Quality in otolaryngology: where we have been and where we are going. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015 May; 152(5):776-7.
  7. Zhu H, Das P, Roberson DW, Jang J, Skinner ML, Paine M, Yuan J, Berry J. Hospitalizations in children with preexisting tracheostomy: a national perspective. Laryngoscope. 2015 Feb; 125(2):462-8.
  8. Shah RK, Boss EF, Brereton J, Roberson DW. Errors in otolaryngology revisited. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2014 May; 150(5):779-84.
  9. Roberson D, Connell M, Dillis S, Gauvreau K, Gore R, Heagerty E, Jenkins K, Ma L, Maurer A, Stephenson J, Schwartz M. Cognitive complexity of the medical record is a risk factor for major adverse events. Perm J. 2014; 18(1):4-8.
  10. Roberson DW, Connell M, Dillis S, Guavreau K, Gore R, Heagerty E, Jenkins K, Ma L, Maurer A, Stephenson J, Schwartz M. Medical record complexity is a risk factor for externally reportable adverse events. Permanente Journal. 2014; 1(18):4-8.
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  12. Liu C, Heffernan C, Saluja S, Yuan J, Paine M, Oyemwense N, Berry J, and Roberson DW. Indications Hospital Course, and Complezity of Patients Undergoing Tracheostomy at a Tertiary Care Pediatric Hospital. Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery. 2014; 2(151):232-39.
  13. Saluja S, Brietzke SE, Egan KK, Klavon S, Robson CD, Waltzman ML, Roberson DW. A prospective study of 113 deep neck infections managed using a clinical practice guideline. Laryngoscope. 2013 Dec; 123(12):3211-8.
  14. Goyal SS, Shah R, Roberson DW, Schwartz ML. Variation in post-adenotonsillectomy admission practices in 24 pediatric hospitals. Laryngoscope. 2013 Oct; 123(10):2560-6.
  15. Kieran S, Gorman C, Kirby A, Oyemwense N, Lander L, Schwartz M, Roberson D. Risk factors for desaturation after tonsillectomy: analysis of 4092 consecutive pediatric cases. Laryngoscope. 2013 Oct; 123(10):2554-9.
  16. Racoosin JA, Roberson DW, Pacanowski MA, Nielsen DR. New evidence about an old drug--risk with codeine after adenotonsillectomy. N Engl J Med. 2013 Jun 06; 368(23):2155-7.
  17. Goldman JL, Baugh RF, Davies L, Skinner ML, Stachler RJ, Brereton J, Eisenberg LD, Roberson DW, Brenner MJ. Mortality and major morbidity after tonsillectomy: etiologic factors and strategies for prevention. Laryngoscope. 2013 Oct; 123(10):2544-53.
  18. Roberson DW. The mortality observed-to-expected ratio in otolaryngology. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2013 Apr; 148(4):708-9.
  19. Robertson PJ, Brereton JM, Roberson DW, Shah RK, Nielsen DR. Choosing wisely: our list. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2013 Apr; 148(4):534-6.
  20. Apfelbaum JL, Caplan RA, Barker SJ, Connis RT, Cowles C, Ehrenwerth J, Nickinovich DG, Pritchard D, Roberson DW, Caplan RA, Barker SJ, Connis RT, Cowles C, de Richemond AL, Ehrenwerth J, Nickinovich DG, Pritchard D, Roberson DW, Wolf GL. Practice advisory for the prevention and management of operating room fires: an updated report by the American Society of Anesthesiologists Task Force on Operating Room Fires. Anesthesiology. 2013 Feb; 118(2):271-90.
  21. Das P, Zhu H, Shah RK, Roberson DW, Berry J, Skinner ML. Tracheotomy-related catastrophic events: results of a national survey. Laryngoscope. 2012 Jan; 122(1):30-7.
  22. Eibling DE, Roberson DW. Managing tracheotomy risk: time to look beyond hospital discharge. Laryngoscope. 2012 Jan; 122(1):23-4.
  23. Shah RK, Lander L, Berry JG, Nussenbaum B, Merati A, Roberson DW. Tracheotomy outcomes and complications: a national perspective. Laryngoscope. 2012 Jan; 122(1):25-9.
  24. Zhu H, Das P, Brereton J, Roberson D, Shah RK. Surveillance and management practices in tracheotomy patients. Laryngoscope. 2012 Jan; 122(1):46-50.
  25. Yacovone L, Roberson D, Ng MW. Riga-Fede disease: a rare sublingual traumatic ulcerative lesion in a child. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2012 Feb; 146(2):333-4.
  26. Shah RK, Arjmand E, Roberson DW, Deutsch E, Derkay C. Variation in surgical time-out and site marking within pediatric otolaryngology. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2011 Jan; 137(1):69-73.
  27. Lander L, Roberson DW, Plummer KM, Forbes PW, Healy GB, Shah RK. A trigger tool fails to identify serious errors and adverse events in pediatric otolaryngology. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2010 Oct; 143(4):480-6.
  28. Shah RK, Nussenbaum B, Kienstra M, Glenn M, Brereton J, Patel MM, Nielsen D, Roberson DW. Wrong-site sinus surgery in otolaryngology. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2010 Jul; 143(1):37-41.
  29. Berry JG, Graham RJ, Roberson DW, Rhein L, Graham DA, Zhou J, O'Brien J, Putney H, Goldmann DA. Patient characteristics associated with in-hospital mortality in children following tracheotomy. Arch Dis Child. 2010 Sep; 95(9):703-10.
  30. Rice-Townsend S, Hall M, Jenkins KJ, Roberson DW, Rangel SJ. Analysis of adverse events in pediatric surgery using criteria validated from the adult population: justifying the need for pediatric-focused outcome measures. J Pediatr Surg. 2010 Jun; 45(6):1126-36.
  31. Berry JG, Graham DA, Graham RJ, Zhou J, Putney HL, O'Brien JE, Roberson DW, Goldmann DA. Predictors of clinical outcomes and hospital resource use of children after tracheotomy. Pediatrics. 2009 Aug; 124(2):563-72.
  32. Shah RK, Lander L, Forbes P, Jenkins K, Healy GB, Roberson DW. Safety on an inpatient pediatric otolaryngology service: many small errors, few adverse events. Laryngoscope. 2009 May; 119(5):871-9.
  33. Ridenour JS, Poe DS, Roberson DW. Complications with hydroxyapatite cement in mastoid cavity obliteration. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2008 Nov; 139(5):641-5.
  34. Shah RK, Hoy E, Roberson DW, Nielsen D. Errors with concentrated epinephrine in otolaryngology. Laryngoscope. 2008 Nov; 118(11):1928-30.
  35. Caplan RA, Barker SJ, Connis RT, Cowles C, de Richemond AL, Ehrenwerth J, Nickinovich DG, Pritchard D, Roberson D, Wolf GL. Practice advisory for the prevention and management of operating room fires. Anesthesiology. 2008 May; 108(5):786-801; quiz 971-2.
  36. Brietzke SE, Katz ES, Roberson DW. Pulse transit time as a screening test for pediatric sleep-related breathing disorders. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2007 Oct; 133(10):980-4.
  37. Lander L, Roberson DW, Shah RK. Errors and adverse events in otolaryngology. Ear Nose Throat J. 2007 Jul; 86(7):370-1.
  38. Zirkle M, Roberson DW, Leuwer R, Dubrowski A. Using a virtual reality temporal bone simulator to assess otolaryngology trainees. Laryngoscope. 2007 Feb; 117(2):258-63.
  39. Lander LI, Connor JA, Shah RK, Kentala E, Healy GB, Roberson DW. Otolaryngologists' responses to errors and adverse events. Laryngoscope. 2006 Jul; 116(7):1114-20.
  40. Shah RK, Roberson DW, Healy GB. Errors and adverse events in otolaryngology. Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2006 Jun; 14(3):164-9.
  41. Brietzke SE, Kenna M, Katz ES, Mitchell E, Roberson D. Pediatric adenoidectomy: what is the effect of obstructive symptoms on the likelihood of future surgery? Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2006 Aug; 70(8):1467-72.
  42. Drottar M, Liberman MC, Ratan RR, Roberson DW. The histone deacetylase inhibitor sodium butyrate protects against cisplatin-induced hearing loss in guinea pigs. Laryngoscope. 2006 Feb; 116(2):292-6.
  43. Roberson DW, Kentala E, Forbes P. Development and validation of an objective instrument to measure surgical performance at tonsillectomy. Laryngoscope. 2005 Dec; 115(12):2127-37.
  44. Mehta RP, Chesnulovitch K, Jones DT, Roberson DW. Pediatric deaths due to otolaryngologic causes: a population-based study in Massachusetts, 1990-2002. Laryngoscope. 2005 Nov; 115(11):1923-9.
  45. Zirkle M, Blum R, Raemer DB, Healy G, Roberson DW. Teaching emergency airway management using medical simulation: a pilot program. Laryngoscope. 2005 Mar; 115(3):495-500.
  46. Brietzke SE, Katz ES, Roberson DW. Can history and physical examination reliably diagnose pediatric obstructive sleep apnea/hypopnea syndrome? A systematic review of the literature. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2004 Dec; 131(6):827-32.
  47. Roberson DW, Alosi JA, Cotanche DA. Direct transdifferentiation gives rise to the earliest new hair cells in regenerating avian auditory epithelium. J Neurosci Res. 2004 Nov 15; 78(4):461-71.
  48. Roberson DW, Kentala E, Healy GB. Quality and safety in a complex world: why systems science matters to otolaryngologists. Laryngoscope. 2004 Oct; 114(10):1810-4.
  49. Zirkle M, Roberson DW. Striving for imperfection: facing up to human error in medicine. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2004 Oct; 130(10):1149-51.
  50. Shah RK, Kentala E, Healy GB, Roberson DW. Classification and consequences of errors in otolaryngology. Laryngoscope. 2004 Aug; 114(8):1322-35.
  51. Shah RK, Roberson DW, Jones DT. Epiglottitis in the Hemophilus influenzae type B vaccine era: changing trends. Laryngoscope. 2004 Mar; 114(3):557-60.
  52. Matsui JI, Haque A, Huss D, Messana EP, Alosi JA, Roberson DW, Cotanche DA, Dickman JD, Warchol ME. Caspase inhibitors promote vestibular hair cell survival and function after aminoglycoside treatment in vivo. J Neurosci. 2003 Jul 09; 23(14):6111-22.
  53. Parikh SR, Reiter ER, Kenna MA, Roberson D. Utility of tonsillectomy in 2 patients with the syndrome of periodic fever, aphthous stomatitis, pharyngitis, and cervical adenitis. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2003 Jun; 129(6):670-3.
  54. Roberson DW, Alosi JA, Mercola M, Cotanche DA. REST mRNA expression in normal and regenerating avian auditory epithelium. Hear Res. 2002 Oct; 172(1-2):62-72.
  55. Rahbar R, Jones DT, Nuss RC, Roberson DW, Kenna MA, McGill TJ, Healy GB. The role of mitomycin in the prevention and treatment of scar formation in the pediatric aerodigestive tract: friend or foe? Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2002 Apr; 128(4):401-6.
  56. Kirse DJ, Roberson DW. Surgical management of retropharyngeal space infections in children. Laryngoscope. 2001 Aug; 111(8):1413-22.
  57. McDonnell JP, Needleman HL, Charchut S, Allred EN, Roberson DW, Kenna MA, Jones D. The relationship between dental overbite and eustachian tube dysfunction. Laryngoscope. 2001 Feb; 111(2):310-6.
  58. Rosbe KW, Perez-Atayde AR, Roberson DW, Kenna M. Pathology forum: quiz case 1. Diagnosis: posttransplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD) of the epiglottis. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2000 Sep; 126(9):1153; discussion 1157-8.
  59. Roberson DW, Alosi JA, Messana EP, Nedder AP, Cotanche DA. Endotracheal isoflurane anesthesia for chick auditory surgery. Hear Res. 2000 Mar; 141(1-2):165-8.
  60. Roberson DW, Alosi JA, Messana EP, Cotanche DA. Effect of violation of the labyrinth on the sensory epithelium in the chick cochlea. Hear Res. 2000 Mar; 141(1-2):155-64.
  61. Feinerman IL, Tan HK, Roberson DW, Malley R, Kenna MA. Necrotizing fasciitis of the pharynx following adenotonsillectomy. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 1999 Apr 25; 48(1):1-7.
  62. Marx SV, Roberson DW, Coates G, Langman AW. Spinal subdural hematoma after resection of an acoustic neuroma. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1999 Apr; 120(4):540-2.
  63. Roberson, DW, Kreig, CS and Rubel, EW. Light microscopic evidence that pre-mitotic transdifferentiation may give rise to new hair cells in regenerating avian auditory epithelium. Auditory Nuerosciences. 1996; (2):195-205.
  64. Rubel EW, Dew LA, Roberson DW. Mammalian vestibular hair cell regeneration. Science. 1995 Feb 03; 267(5198):701-7.
  65. Roberson DW, Turner JJ, Fagan PA. Extensive facial nerve tumor with atypical histology: case report. Am J Otol. 1994 May; 15(3):437-40.
  66. Roberson DW, Rubel EW. Cell division in the gerbil cochlea after acoustic trauma. Am J Otol. 1994 Jan; 15(1):28-34.
  67. Roberson DW, Chu FW, Yarington CT. Parotid cancer: treatment and results. Ear Nose Throat J. 1993 Dec; 72(12):787-93.
  68. Roberson DW. The law and control of tuberculosis. N Engl J Med. 1993 Jul 08; 329(2):137; author reply 137-8.
  69. Roberson DF, Weisleder P, Bohrer PS, Rubel EW. Ongoing production of sensory cells in the vestibular epithelium of the chick. Hear Res. 1992 Jan; 57(2):166-74.
  70. Roberson DW, Upchurch GR, Lamb MA, Read MS, Wagner RH, Cooper HA. A paradoxical effect of antibody concentration on vWF-dependent platelet agglutination distinguishes between botrocetin and ristocetin-induced agglutination. Thromb Res. 1986 Dec 15; 44(6):749-60.
  71. Virgin FW, Huang L, Roberson DW, and Sawicki GS. Interhospital variation in the frequency of sinus surgery in children with cystic fibrosis. Pediatric Pulmonology. (47):358.
To schedule an appointment: Call 617-355-0668 or Request an Appointment


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