My oldest graduated elementary school yesterday and I will admit that I shed more than a few tears at his end-of-year ceremony as the entire school community literally “clapped out” the sixth grade. Someone told me to make sure I bring my sunglasses and I am grateful for that advice. While elementary school graduation may not be as big of a deal as high school or college, it still felt like a pretty big milestone for him and our family. I think back to his first day of kindergarten in 2012 . His youngest sister was still in a baby backpack as we walked him half of a block to his first day of school with another toddler in tow. My wife and I spent a lot of time in that classroom–we eagerly volunteered to share a weekly volunteer spot in his class and attended the frequent performances and parties hosted by his amazing teacher. Almost seven years (and two cross-country moves) later, he biked himself to his last day of elementary school and I had to promise to make sure I hung out with the other parents (and not him) at the end-of-year BBQ celebration.
As she describes in her TED Talk from 2015, when Nadine Burke Harris stumbled into the world of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), it made her rethink her entire approach to practicing medicine. After finishing her residency, she went to work for California Pacific Medical Center and together they opened a clinic in Bayview-Hunter’s Point in San Francisco. As she began her work there, she focused on improving many of the traditional health disparity measures for underserved communities. But even though she was hitting her numbers, she noticed that many kids were being referred to her for symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). For many of these kids, she did not feel like she could make a diagnosis of ADHD based on their histories. She felt like she was missing something. The dots connected for her when a colleague shared with her the findings from the original ACE study from the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente that showed strong epidemiological evidence for the link between childhood adversity and health outcomes and behaviors.