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Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’s ‘The Deepest Well’ Is a Clarion Call

Author Explores Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity


When Nadine Burke Harris opened a health clinic in Bayview Hunters Point, a poor, predominately African-American section of San Francisco, the faint outlines of a pattern emerged — a link between toxic stress in childhood and serious illnesses in adulthood. After discovering a research study on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), Burke Harris realized she was on to something important. The repeated release of stress hormones in childhood — the fight-or-flight response — caused by physical or psychological abuse, parental addiction, domestic violence, and neglect alters biological systems and can lead to diabetes, asthma, heart disease, and other chronic health conditions.

The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity is the story of how Burke Harris meticulously connected the dots between what she saw in her daily practice and a little-known research study. This convergence changed her professional life. “The realization,” writes Burke Harris, “that this was bigger than my patients, bigger than Bayview, made my heart pound. Adversity’s detrimental impact on health had all the hallmarks of a public-health crisis hidden in plain sight.”

Burke Harris is a determined physician and a compassionate woman on a mission to inspire action. She imagines a future in which screening for ACEs is as common as a TB test and as routine as prenatal care. The Deepest Well is a clarion call to know and understand the legacy of childhood that we carry in our bodies

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