Nadine Burke Harris

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Nadine Burke Harris
1st Surgeon General of California
In office
February 11, 2019 – February 11, 2022
GovernorGavin Newsom
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byDiana Ramos
Personal details
Born1975 (age 48–49)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
CitizenshipUnited States
Political partyDemocratic
Arno Lockheart Harris
(m. 2011)
EducationUniversity of California, Berkeley (BA)
University of California, Davis (MD)
Harvard University (MPH)
Stanford University (Pediatrics)
OccupationPediatrician, mental health researcher

Nadine Burke Harris (born October 5, 1975) is a Canadian-American pediatrician who was the Surgeon General of California between 2019 and 2022; she is the first person appointed to that position.[1][2] She is known for linking adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress with harmful effects to health later in life.[3] Hailed as a pioneer in the treatment of toxic stress,[4] she is an advisory council member for the Clinton Foundation's "Too Small to Fail" campaign,[5] and the founder and former chief executive officer of the Center for Youth Wellness.[2][4] Her work was also featured in Paul Tough's book How Children Succeed.[6]

Early life and education[edit]

Nadine Burke Harris was born on Oct,5 1975 in Vancouver, British Columbia.[7] She is of Jamaican heritage and lived briefly in Jamaica before the family moved to the United States when she was 4 years old.[8] Her father is a biochemist and her mother is a nurse. She received her bachelor's degree in integrative biology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1996 and her medical degree from the University of California, Davis.[9] She completed her residency in pediatrics at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, within Stanford University School of Medicine.[10] After earning her master's degree in public health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health,[11] she went on to serve a residency at Stanford in pediatrics.[12]

Her graduate studies were supported by The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans.[13][14]

Early career[edit]

In 2005, Burke Harris joined the California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) staff, where she was tasked with the goal of developing programs to end health disparities in San Francisco.[15] While at Harvard, Burke Harris identified access to health care as a key component of health disparities in San Francisco.[16] In 2007, with support from CPMC, she became the founding physician of the Bayview Child Health Center and medical director of the new clinic.[4][16]


In 2008, after reading "The Relationship of Adverse Childhood Experiences to Adult Health: Turning Gold Into Lead," by Vincent J. Felitti, Burke Harris realized that her patients' traumatic experiences were having a negative impact on their present and future health.[16]

In 2011, she was appointed by the American Academy of Pediatrics to the Project Advisory Committee for the Resilience Project.[17]

From 2010 to 2012, Burke Harris co-founded the Adverse Childhood Experiences project in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood in San Francisco, with colleagues Daniel Lurie from Tipping Point Foundation, Kamala Harris, Victor G. Carrion, Lenore Anderson, Lisa Pritzker, and Katie Albright. From this effort, the Center for Youth Wellness was created in 2012 to create a clinical model that recognizes the impact of adverse experiences on health and effectively treats toxic stress in children. The multidisciplinary approach focuses on preventing and undoing the chemical, physiological and neurodevelopmental results of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). The Center integrates primary health care, mental health and wellness, research, policy, education, and community and family support services to children and families.[4][16]

In 2014, she spoke at a TED event titled TEDMED in San Francisco.[18] Her talk, "How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime," had reached over 7.2 million viewers on as of June 2020.[19]

Nadine Burke Harris presents a COVID-19 educational video during her role as California Surgeon General in 2020.

In 2018, Burke Harris released her first book The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

On January 21, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom appointed her as the state's first Surgeon General.[20] She was sworn in on February 11, 2019. On February 1, 2022, she announced she would resign to focus on her family, effective February 11, 2022.[21][22]

The Center for Youth Wellness[edit]

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are defined as preventable and traumatic early experiences; they can range from exposure to violence, poverty and neglect, to physical, emotional and sexual abuse.[23] As a result, it may increase the likelihood for "risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, low life potential, and early death"[23] in adulthood. Exposure to ACEs may lead to toxic stress, which varies from typical stress in that it is chronic and excessive, and results in antagonistic physiological responses that can lead to poor health outcomes in life.[24]

The Center for Youth Wellness (CYW) aims to improve child and adolescent health by targeting the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences. A main goal of the CYW is that "every pediatrician in the United States will screen for Adverse Childhood Experiences by 2028."[25] More specifically, they target ACEs in San Francisco's Bayview/Hunter's Point neighborhood, a generally underserved area that had a poverty rate of 39% in 2010.[26] The CYW identified that exposure to ACEs, along with high violence,[4] increases the likelihood for detrimental health outcomes in this neighborhood.[24] They use a combination of ACEs risk screening (via questionnaire), care coordination, and multidisciplinary treatment (primary care, psychotherapy, psychiatry and biofeedback).[25]

Personal life[edit]

Burke Harris married Arno Lockheart Harris in 2011 at Dawn Ranch Lodge in Guerneville, California.[27] She is the mother of four boys. Her mother was hospitalized in the ICU, at Stanford University Medical Center, during the COVID-19 pandemic, with an illness other than COVID, and due to COVID restrictions she was unable to visit her.[28] She resigned from her position in February 2022 to care for herself and her family.[22]

Committee appointments[edit]

  • 2002–2003, Graduate Medical Education Committee, Stanford University Medical Center
  • 2003–2004, Post-Doctoral Education Committee, Stanford University Medical Center
  • 2004–2005, Liaison Committee on Medical Education Task Force, Stanford University School of Medicine
  • 2004–2007, board of directors, San Francisco Urban Service Project
  • 2005–2009, Citizen's Committee for Community Development (Appt by: Mayor Gavin Newsom)
  • 2008–2013, Asthma Resource Council, board of directors
  • 2011–present, American Academy of Pediatrics' The Resilience Project[17]
  • 2012–present, California Health and Human Services Agency' Jerry Brown' Let's Get Healthy California Task Force, Expert Advisor[29][30]


Selected works[edit]


  1. ^ "Gov. Newsom Appoints California's First-Ever Surgeon General". NBC Bay Area. San Francisco, CA. January 21, 2019. Retrieved January 21, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Lee, Stephanie M. (February 17, 2015), "Dr. Nadine Burke Harris gets to the heart of children's stress", San Francisco Chronicle
  3. ^ "Google gives $3 million to Nadine Burke Harris' Bayview clinic". San Francisco Chronicle. November 3, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Bayview center pioneers approach to crime prevention by fighting stress in youths". December 8, 2013.
  5. ^ "Center for Youth Wellness: Central to Broader Battle Against Child Trauma". July 10, 2014.
  6. ^ "Paul Tough Speaks at Harvard: How Children Succeed". Boston Globe. September 3, 2012.
  7. ^ Ceiling Breaker for Female Leaders in Public Health, Clinton Foundation, March 20, 2015
  8. ^ "Nadine Burke Harris- Heart of Gold". The Jamaica Gleaner. June 9, 2016.
  9. ^ "Childhood trauma a public health crisis". November 19, 2014.
  10. ^ "Former pediatrics resident will be California's first surgeon general". February 5, 2019.
  11. ^ "Childhood trauma's devastating impact on health". March 13, 2015.
  12. ^ Tough, Paul (March 14, 2011). "The Poverty Clinic". The New Yorker. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  13. ^ "Meet the Fellows | Nadine Burke-Harris". Retrieved June 13, 2020.
  14. ^ "Nadine Burke Harris: How Does Trauma Affect A Child's DNA?". Retrieved June 13, 2020.
  15. ^ "Makers Profile, Nadine Burke Harris, Founder & CEO, Center for Youth Wellness". Makers.
  16. ^ a b c d "Childhood trauma a public health crisis The Poverty Clinic. Can a stressful childhood make you a sick adult?". The New Yorker. March 21, 2011.
  17. ^ a b "About the Project". Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  18. ^ "TEDMED – Talks". TEDMED. Retrieved June 13, 2020.
  19. ^ "How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime". TEDMED 2014. 2014.
  20. ^ "Gov. Newsom Appoints California's First-Ever Surgeon General". NBC Bay Area. January 22, 2019. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  21. ^ CBS staff (February 1, 2022). "California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris Resigns". CBS Los Angeles. Retrieved February 1, 2022.
  22. ^ a b Thompson, Don (February 2, 2022). "California's 1st surgeon general resigns, citing need to focus on 'care for myself and my family'". Retrieved February 2, 2022.
  23. ^ a b "Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention|Violence Prevention|Injury Center|CDC". April 10, 2018. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  24. ^ a b "ACEs & Toxic Stress Science | Center for Youth Wellness". Center for Youth Wellness. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  25. ^ a b "Mission | Center for Youth Wellness". Center for Youth Wellness. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  26. ^ "Your Neighborhood at a Glance: Bayview-Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley" (PDF). Harder Company Community Research. March 2012 – via San Francisco Department of Public Health.
  27. ^ "Weddings: Nadine Burke and Arno Harris". The New York Times. July 8, 2011. Retrieved April 17, 2015.
  28. ^ "California surgeon general gets personal about pandemic". CalMatters. February 27, 2021. Retrieved February 27, 2021.
  29. ^ "U.S. Conference of Mayors Adopts Resolution to Replicate Let's Get Healthy California Task Force in Other U.S. Cities". Reuters. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  30. ^ "Let's Get Healthy California – Task Force Final Report – December 19, 2012, page xviii" (PDF). Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  31. ^ "The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans – Spring 1999 Fellows". Archived from the original on September 7, 2009. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  32. ^ "2013 Specialty Society Awards". The Arnold P. Gold Foundation. Archived from the original on January 25, 2016.
  33. ^ Fagan, Kevin (February 28, 2014). "Dynamic leaders of child-help center win Irvine Award". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
  34. ^ Sentinel News Service (February 27, 2014). "The James Irvine Foundation Announces its 2014 Leadership Award Recipients". Los Angeles Sentinel. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
  35. ^ "The Heinz Awards :: Recipients". Retrieved September 27, 2016.
  36. ^ Briggance, BB; Burke, N (2002). "Shaping America's health care professions: the dramatic rise of multiculturalism". West J Med. 176 (1): 62–4. doi:10.1136/ewjm.176.1.62. PMC 1071658. PMID 11788544.
  37. ^ Burke, NJ; Hellman, JL; Scott, BG; Weems, CF; Carrion, VG (2011). "The impact of adverse childhood experiences on an urban pediatric population". Child Abuse Negl. 35 (6): 408–13. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2011.02.006. PMC 3119733. PMID 21652073.
  38. ^ "The Shriver Report – The Chronic Stress of Poverty: Toxic to Children". Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  39. ^ Scott, Brandon G. (2013). "The Interrelation of Adverse Childhood Experiences within an At-Risk Pediatric Sample". Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma. 6 (3): 217–229. doi:10.1080/19361521.2013.811459. S2CID 143601884.

External links[edit]