• Practitioners in Residence

Roberta Powell, S2018-F2018

Swearer Center Community Practitioner in Residence 

Office hours: Wednesdays from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. in the Swearer Center small conference room.

Roberta Powell is a Harry S. Truman Scholar ’83 and holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Northeastern University ’85. Upon graduation, she enjoyed a successful career in finance/administration for the transportation industry (Amtrak and MBTA). Roberta returned to school and received a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School ‘99. Upon graduation, she worked as a consultant to nonprofit organizations and eventually purchased and operated a private affordable housing complex in Attleboro, Massachusetts. 

It was Roberta’s personal experience, after being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer in 2005, that inspired her to embark on a second career in the healthcare industry. She matriculated in a full-time accelerated nursing program at Rhode Island College and received a bachelor of science in nursing in 2009. As a nurse, Roberta specialized in diabetes and chronic disease education and became a Certified Diabetes Educator. After several years working as a nurse educator, Roberta concluded that a significant impediment to healthcare compliance were patients’ poor numeracy skills. Numeracy is an individual’s ability to access, understand and process numerical data in order to manage his/her health condition. 

Consequently, Roberta developed a personal interest in creating a system that would simplify the current healthcare numerical values in order to empower individuals to engage in self-care and self-advocacy, thereby improving health outcomes. As a Swearer Center Practitioner in Residence, Roberta will expand on her healthcare numeracy research and involvement in the health community in Providence, and will work on developing a scale to interpret health test results.