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P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans

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Nadine Burke Harris: The Deepest Well

Several years ago, Nadine Burke Harris read a medical study that changed her life. Researchers had found that individuals who face difficult circumstances, like neglect or abuse, as children actually may see those experiences manifested in their physical wellbeing as they grow older. The study resonated with Nadine because she was primarily working with children and young adults who had faced great adversity from an early age.

Previously, Nadine had seen kids in tough family situations and thought of it as a social or societal issue. But, with this research in her hand, she saw the impact that it was having on her patients’ health.

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    From left to right: Jeffrey Soros, Nadine Burke-Harris (1999 Fellow), Daisy Soros and Vivek Murthy (1998 Fellow).

This study became the foundation of Nadine’s life work, researching and understanding “Adverse Childhood Experiences” or ACEs. In 2012, after years of focus on the issue, Nadine founded the Center for Youth Wellness, which is dedicated to improving society’s understanding of ACEs, and revolutionizing pediatric healthcare to incorporate best practices for identifying and handling ACEs.  

Nadine’s newest book, The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity, tells the story of ACEs through research and her own pediatric work in San Francisco. Most importantly, it outlines how society can battle this public health crisis.

As a 1999 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow, Nadine received her MD from UC-Davis Medical School in 2001, and completed her MPH degree at Harvard University the following year. Nadine was born in Vancouver, British Columbia and spent the first four years of her life in Jamaica. Her family then immigrated to California where they settled.

After graduate school, Nadine worked for the California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) where she focused on resolving health disparities in San Francisco. She went on to become the founding physician and medical director of the Bayview Child Health Center for CPMC.

To learn more about Nadine’s work, watch her TED Talk, How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime.