Nadine Burke Harris

Graduated 2001

Surgeon General of California

Doctor of Medicine

Nadine Burke Harris, a UC Davis School of Medicine graduate and nationally recognized expert on childhood trauma, became California’s first surgeon general in 2019.

Nadine Burke Harris has dedicated her career to examining toxic stress and the lifelong effects it can have on our health. She said the issue is the great public health crisis of our time — but it’s a problem we can start to solve. A TED Talk she presented on “How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime” has been viewed over 7 million times.

In her first book, The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity, she details the dangers of adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, and what we can do about them. Burke Harris has been sounding the alarm since discovering the direct link between experiences like neglect, abuse and uncertainty, and long-term chronic health problems like heart disease, cancer and depression, as chronicled in a 1990s study by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Burke Harris, a Palo Alto native who also holds a master’s degree in public health from Harvard University, founded the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco in 2011. There, young patients are screened for ACEs and get referrals for social services and mental health treatment with the goal of improving their mental and physical health. Opening the center built on the career path she had started at UC Davis, where running the student clinic “really ingrained in me that my voice mattered and could make a difference in the community,” said Burke Harris.

Nadine Burke Harris is the recipient of the 2018 UC Davis School of Medicine Transformational Leadership Award.

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