A New Voice in State Healthcare

Since taking office in January, Governor Gavin Newsom has been busy appointing a team of experts to help propel his healthcare priorities for the people of California.

In the governor’s first proclamation document instituting Executive Order N-02-19, establishing the state’s first-ever Surgeon General position, the governor proclaimed, “California faces serious health challenges rooted in early social determinants of health… and that these challenges disproportionately impact low-income communities.”  The order executes the state appointment of a leader "who can harness the insights and talents of medical and public health professionals, along with other stakeholders." With this charge, Governor Newsom appointed Dr. Nadine Burke Harris California’s first Surgeon General. Dr. Burke Harris was sworn-in on February 11.

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A national expert in child development and a UC Davis School of Medicine-trained pediatrician, Dr. Burke Harris founded the Center for Youth Wellness (CYW) in San Francisco, which advocates for screening and early intervention to head off adverse childhood experiences. Dr. Burke Harris has dedicated her professional career to understanding the link between adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress in children, and the effect both have on future health outcomes. A national leader in the effort to advance pediatric medicine, raise public awareness, and transform the way society responds to children exposed to adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress, she leads the Bay Area Research Consortium on Toxic Stress and Health, a partnership between CYW and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals. Dr. Burke Harris serves as a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ National Advisory Board for Screening and on a committee for the National Academy of Medicine. She is an expert advisor on the Let’s Get Healthy California Task Force, a former member of the Boys and Men of Color Trauma Advisory Committee, and a former appointee by then-Mayor Newsom to the San Francisco Citizens’ Committee for Community Development.

Dr. Burke Harris’ expertise aligns with the governor’s agenda of healthcare initiatives to help tackle the social detriments to health and health equity by focusing on early childhood policy as reflected in the $1.7 billion in funding for expanded early childhood education and early interventions proposed in the upcoming state budget. 

In her new role as the state’s top health advocate, Dr. Burke Harris aims to urge state policymakers across the state to consider the social determinants of health, especially for children. She plans for her work to focus on combating the root causes of serious health conditions. She also sees her role as one of medical advisers to the government and Newsom administration, a health strategist, and as a public health advocate, using her platform to reach families across the state.


Gabriela Villanueva is CAP’s Public Affairs Analyst. Questions or comments related to this article should be directed to gvillanueva@CAPphysicians.com