Meet The Black Woman Who Became California's First Surgeon General - Black Enterprise

Meet The Black Woman Who Became California’s First Surgeon General

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris California surgeon general
Image: Winokur Photography

In 2019, California Gov. Gavin Newsom created the new role of surgeon general to address health issues and challenges in the state. At the beginning of this year, Newsom announced that he would be appointing Dr. Nadine Burke Harris to become the state’s first-ever surgeon general.

The governor announced in a press statement that Dr. Harris will be focusing on combating the root causes of serious health conditions and use her office to reach young families across the state. This appointment comes in the midst of COVID-19, otherwise known as the coronavirus, outbreak that has been overwhelming the country with the number of new cases rising by the day. Harris has been using her social media accounts to help guide California residents through this public health crisis.

Prior to her new role, Dr. Harris was the founder and chief executive of the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco, which aims to improve the health of children exposed to toxic stress and trauma early in life. During her tenure at Youth Wellness, she served as an adviser on former California’s Gov. Jerry Brown’s “Let’s Get Healthy California Task Force” and as a committee member for the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Medical Home for Children Exposed to Violence Committee. She was also a former appointee by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom to the San Francisco Citizens’ Committee for Community Development

She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1996 and went on to obtain her medical degree from the University of California Davis School of Medicine. Harris earned a Master’s in Public Health from Harvard University and completed her residency in pediatrics at Stanford University. She has previously held a TED Talk discussing the effects of childhood trauma.

In her new role as surgeon general, Dr. Harris will remain dedicated to her work of helping underserved communities and improving the health of children who are exposed to traumatic experiences.