Activism and idealism run deeply through George's family history. During World War II, his great-grandfather joined the Greek anti-Nazi resistance as a medic and was tortured and executed by German soldiers. In 1973, his sixteen-year-old father was beaten and arrested by military police during a student uprising that helped end Greece's military dictatorship a year later.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, George has pursued his ideals in a more peaceful context. His father left the family when he was twelve, and his single mother worked in urban communities as a psychiatric social worker. George saw first-hand the suffering imposed by poverty both in the US and in his parents' native Greece.
To understand the social processes restricting the life chances of the US poor more fully, George moved to a Philadelphia immigrant neighborhood at the heart of the city's heroin and cocaine markets during his sophomore year at the University of Pennsylvania. He lived there until beginning medical school at Harvard. He is now taking a year's leave from medical school to co-author a book, Cornered, drawing on his experience in Philadelphia as a basis for examining the narcotics economy and its effect on public health. Then it will be back to Harvard, where he will continue his joint MD/PhD degree.