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Childhood trauma isn’t something you just get over as you grow up. Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris explains that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect and parents struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain.
Dr Nadine Burke-Harris will launch you into the world of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the resulting neurochemical changes that affect the development of children’s brain structure. Along the way you’ll understand why her Ted Talk has netted the good doctor over half a million views, and it’s still skyrocketing upwards.
But her TED talk is stage two of her charismatic launch into a wider consciousness.
Stage one ignited when she “completed her medical residency, at a children’s hospital on the campus of Stanford University. She was an idealistic twenty-nine-year-old with a medical degree from the University of California at Davis and a master’s in public health from Harvard. She was recruited by the California Pacific Medical Center, a private hospital group, to take on a vaguely defined but noble-sounding job: identifying and addressing health disparities in San Francisco, where the poverty rate for black families is five times as high as that for white families.
“Much of the city’s African-American population lives in Bayview-Hunters Point, a largely industrial area that has a sewage-treatment facility and a sprawling Superfund site. Rates of congestive heart failure are nearly five times as high there as in the Marina district, a few miles away.”
The quote above is from The NewYorker Magazine’s feature story about her called ‘The Poverty Clinic.’ It ran almost exactly four years ago. The piece covers her early Hunters Point efforts from their beginning in 2009. It chronicles her tenacious struggle to break out of the standard public health/pediatric clinic role in children’s lives and it describes her discovery the research into ACEs, and how it helped her make sense of her own daily experiences with the parents and children she saw.
‘The Poverty Clinic‘ can serve as a backgrounder to her Ted Talk, or it can serve as it was written; the story of a Public Health Doctor who, “found herself thinking increasingly about the problems that she couldn’t immunize her patients against: homelessness, gang violence, physical abuse, and sexual abuse, as well as absent fathers…..These problems were, technically, none of her business.”
Since then, she has thoroughly broken out of a clinician’s standard role to better confront these larger issues, while adding to the staff of her clinic and creating her ‘Center for Youth Wellness’ Foundation to support it. So who knows how high the third stage of her trajectory will take her.