Odette Harris M.D. ’96 has made history by becoming America’s second African-American female professor of neurosurgery.Stanford’s department of neurosurgery announced her promotion on Tuesday.
Harris joins Lu Chen as the second female professor in the department of neurosurgery at the School of Medicine.
Harris, who specializes in traumatic brain injury, has served as the director of brain injury in the department of neurosurgery and the associate chief of staff of polytrauma and rehabilitation at the Palo Alto Veterans Administration Health Care System since 2009. Harris is also a Clayman Institute Faculty Research Fellow and was awarded the William P. Van Wagenen Fellowship Award from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.
Harris said she developed a passion for the physical sciences and chemistry while studying at an all-girls high school.
“All those cliches about girl schools and empowering girls and women, I think they’re true,” Harris said in an interview with Stanford Medicine.
During her undergraduate years at Dartmouth College, Harris said she sought to surround herself with “strong women.”
It was not until she attended Stanford School of Medicine that she said she experienced a “turning point both in terms of gender and race.” Harris was the only black woman in the School of Medicine’s class of 1996. She was also one of only two women during her neurosurgical residency at Stanford University Medical Center.
Nonetheless, Harris described her experience in medical school and residency as a positive one.
“My mentor was a white man who is blond and as East Coast as can be,” Harris said. “His skin color was irrelevant, as was mine to his experience of mentoring me.”
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