Dr. Nadine Burke Harris is the founding physician and former Medical Director of the CPMC Bayview Child Health Center. She has earned international attention for her innovative approach to addressing adverse childhood experiences as a risk factor for adult disease such as heart disease and cancer. A recent profile in The New Yorker magazine described Dr. Burke Harris’ methodology as “rooted in science, but it goes beyond the typical boundaries of medicine… In the view of Burke and the researchers she has been following, many of the problems that we think of as social issues – and therefore the province of economists and sociologists – might be better addressed on the molecular level… If these researchers are right, it could be time to reassess the relationship between poverty, child development, and health and the Bayview clinic may turn out to be a place where a new kind of pediatric medicine is taking its first tentative steps.”
Dr. Burke Harris has recently embarked on a new project to create the Center for Youth Wellness, a comprehensive health and wellness center that integrates medical, mental health, holistic and social services for an evidence-based approach to improving the health and well-being of urban children and youth. Her areas of interest are in health disparities, child trauma, nutrition and asthma. Particularly, her focus is serving communities where issues of poverty and race present challenges to conventional healthcare and education.
My Definition Of Success | The meaning of success for me has definitely changed over the years. Until very recently, my measure of success was very externally focused. For a long time, I judged my success by the impact that I was having and the outcomes I was achieving. Now, I see success through a much more personal lens. It’s the integration of achievement of purpose with sustainability and nourishment of self. My ability to improve the health and well-being of others on a population scale while being the wife, mother, sister, daughter and the self that I want to be feels like a truer success to me.
I Am Driven By | Like many others, I am driven by a calling to ease suffering in this world and to lead a meaningful existence. I have opportunities that generations before me (of women, of Blacks in America, of immigrants) did not have. I don’t take it for granted for a second.
My Highlights | The greatest highlight of my life is my marriage to Arno Harris. I am both proud and humbled to be married to a person of such high integrity, kindness, intellect, creativity and competence. On a professional level, I feel most proud of earning the trust and confidence of our supporters. My organization, the Center For Youth Wellness, is supported in big ways and small by countless people who care about improving the lives of children exposed to adversity. Every time someone makes a contribution to our organization, whether it’s $3 or $3 million, it’s a vote of confidence that says “we believe that what you are doing is important”. I am proud to earn that trust every day.
The Characteristics Of Success | Curiosity, Tenacity, Authenticity and Passion. Obstacles are everywhere. Success is about finding ways every day to go over, under, around or through. I also try to ask for help when I need it. None of us can do this alone.
Principles I Live By | Integrity is a value that means a tremendous amount to me. I won’t work with people who don’t demonstrate integrity in their dealings with me and others. In the professional world, reputation is really important. The world is actually quite small and simple things like honesty, transparency and ‘do as you say and say as you do’ seem quite simple and traditional, but they are everything.
How I Use My Mind | At this point in the game, my mind is a really important asset, and don’t take that for granted. I try to cultivate my mind by meditating regularly, taking regular time for vacation, reading things that stimulate me, getting regular exercise and avoiding neurotoxins like excess alcohol or drugs.
Lessons I Have Learnt | Don’t take people for granted. Thank everyone who supports you early, often and publicly. In order to do anything truly impactful in this world, we have to engage teams of people to move change forward. There is no such thing as individual success. Invest in relationships.
Dealing With Doubt | When I was in medical school, I was really stressed out about a test and called my father at 3:00 in the morning. Through my tears, I told him that I thought I was going to fail the test. He said to me “So what? So if you fail the test, then what is going to be your next step after that?” When I told him that I would have to take a make-up test he said “OK, so if you did that, could you plan your studies better so that you could pass?” He helped me to step back and look at the big picture. I have a really incredible support network. My parents, brothers, friends, advisors, my team at work – they all keep me going. My number one supporter is my husband. He lifts me up every day. The fact that he believes in me makes me feel like I can do anything!
Performing At My Peak | To perform at my peak, I make sure that I am exercising regularly, sleeping well, nourishing my body and avoiding excess alcohol. Last year, I started took a training in meditation and it made a noticeable difference in my public speaking and my problem solving, so I have made meditation a daily practice. I perform best when I am in coming from an authentic place so staying connected to my patients and to the community I serve is important to me. Also, I am always looking for ways to improve. I take inspiration from everywhere – my friends, patients, family, books, articles… I’m always looking for lessons on how to be more effective.
The Best Advice I’ve Received | The two best pieces of advice I ever received were: “Never limit yourself. There are plenty of people who are happy to try to do that for you.” And, “seek mentorship”.