Roberto Abadie
Assistant Professor Anthropology


I received my doctorate in anthropology from the Graduate Center, City University of New York in 2006. Before coming to UNL I held positions at the Mayo Clinic and McGill University.  My research focuses on how different forms of social stratification, in particular, class, race, and ethnicity, contribute to produce and reproduce health inequalities in marginalized populations. I have conducted extensive research on the ethics of clinical trials and community based research, HIV risk, People Who Inject Drugs (PWID), and health disparities among Latino populations in a variety of settings in Latin America, the Caribbean and the US. I have received funding from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research and the National Institutes of Health. My book , The Professional Guinea Pig: Big Pharma and the Risky World of Human Subjects (2010, Duke University Press), – has been recognized with the Best Book of the Year Award by the Medical Sociology Section of the British Sociological Association. My research appeared in Time Mazagine, BBC, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The Miami Herald and the Philadelphia Inquirer among other venues.

Research and Current Interests

My current research focuses on an ethnography of people who inject drugs (PWID). Conducting fieldwork in rural PWID in Puerto Rico, I employ extensive ethnographic methods to map drug users’ locations in a web of social networks, and the social practices that shape injection drug use and related harms like HIV/HCV and drug overdose episodes and deaths. This research documents the effects of Hurricane Maria in the island, in order to understand how big events, such as natural disasters, combine with pre-existing social dynamics like poverty, dispossession and a protracted economic crisis caused by decades of neoliberal policies to affect the everyday lives of drug users.

In addition, I am conducting a comparative study of behavioral and structural factors affecting barriers and facilitators to Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT) enrollment among opioid users in rural Puerto Rico and rural Nebraska. This study will illustrate how rurality, a shifting war on drugs landscape and the bureaucratic arrangements of Opioid Agonist Treatment centers intersect with individual trajectories to explain treatment outcomes.

Recent Grant Activity:

  • PI. College of Arts and Sciences and the Rural Drug Addiction Research (RDAR) Center. “An Ethnographic Exploration of OAT Barriers and Facilitators among Opioid Users in Rural Nebraska” COBRE: P20GM130461. $50.000 2020-2022
  • Co-Investigator. National Institutes of Health (NIH). “Biomarkers for Dysbiosis-Related HIV-Associated Cognitive Disorders among Persons Who Inject Drugs in Puerto Rico.” R01DA047823. $ 3.234.658. 2019-2024.
  • PI. National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA). "Assessing the effects of hurricane Maria on Opioid Agonist Treatment access among PWID in rural Puerto Rico". R21DA047304. $412.763 2018-2020



Selected Publications

Abadie, R., McLean, K., Habecker, P., Welch-Lazoritz, M., Khan, B., & Dombrowski, K. (2021). Treatment trajectories and barriers to recruitment and retention in opium agonist therapy for people who inject drugs in rural Puerto Rico. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.

Abadie, R., Fisher, C.B., & Dombrowski, K. (2021). Privacy, confidentiality, and anonymity: Understandings from people who inject drugs enrolled in a study of social networks and HIV risk. Journal of Empirical Research Human Research Ethics.

Abadie, R., Gelpi-Acosta, C., Aquino-Ruiz, F., & Aponte-Melendez, Y. (2020). COVID-19 risks among people who inject drugs in Puerto Rico. Int. J. Drug Policy. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102903

Abadie, R., Habecker, P., Gelpi-Acosta, C., Dombrowski, K. (2019). “Migration to the US among rural Puerto Ricans who Inject Drugs: Influential factors, sources of support, and challenges for harm reduction interventions”. BMC Public Health, 19(1), 1-9.

Abadie, R. (2019). The Exploitation of Professional “Guinea Pigs” in the gig economy: The difficult road from consent to justice. American Journal of Bioethics, 19(9), 37-39.

Abadie, R., Goldenberg, S., Welch-Lazoritz, M., Fisher, C.B. (2018). “Establishing trust in HIV/HCV research among people who inject drugs (PWID): Insights from empirical research”. Plos One,

Abadie, R., Gelpi-Acosta, C., Davila, C., Rivera, A., Welch-Lazoritz, M., Dombrowski, K. (2018). “It Ruined My Life”: The effects of the War on Drugs on  people who inject drugs (PWID) in rural Puerto Rico.  International Journal of Drug Policy. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2017.06.11

Abadie R, Welch-Lazoritz M, Gelpi-Acosta C, Reyes J.C, Dombrowski K. (2016). “Prevalence and Risk Factors of HCV Infection among PWID in Rural Puerto Rico. Harm Reduction Journal. 13:10 doi: 10.1186/s12954-016-0099-9


  • Post-Doctoral Fellow Bioethics Research Program. Mayo Clinic. Rochester, Minnesota, 2006 – 2008
  • Ph.D. Anthropology Department, Graduate Center, City University of New York, 2006
  • MA. Anthropology Department, Universite Laval Quebec City. (Canada), 2000
  • BA. Sociology, Universidad de la Republica. (UDELAR) Uruguay, 1992

Research Interests

Medical Anthropology; Health Disparities; Latino Health; People Who Inject Drugs; Bioethics; United States, Puerto Rico, Latin America


Personal Webpage

Curriculum Vitae