First 5: Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, California’s First Surgeon General Is a True Champion for Children and Families in the State

SACRAMENTO, CA (February 4, 2022) – California’s first Surgeon General, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, whose departure was recently announced by Governor Gavin Newsom, continues to be a champion for children and families in the state. The First 5 Association, First 5 California and First 5 LA recognize Dr. Burke Harris for her commitment to ensuring children thrive emotionally, physically and mentally in safe, stable and nurturing environments.

As the Chair of the First 5 California Commission, Dr. Burke Harris has been focused on addressing the significant need to screen for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and equitable disparities among children, pivotal policy areas in her three years as California’s Surgeon General. Along with the Commissioners, she has been committed to providing the information, resources and tools necessary for children and their families to lead healthy lives. Dr. Burke Harris’ mission as captured in her TED talk demonstrates how trauma and toxic stress as a child can result in negative outcomes as an adult. She has worked tirelessly to illustrate how early exposure to ACEs can affect a child’s early brain development and the long-term health impacts into adulthood.

“We applaud Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’ leadership and commitment to elevating the needs of children who experience toxic stress, and its disproportionate impact on children of color. During her tenure, her office has taken a transformative approach to widening appreciation for the long-term impacts of ACEs and the crucial need to focus attention on safe, stable and nurturing relationships for all our children. Her dedication to Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (REDI) aligns with the core principles of First 5 Association and has been evident throughout her tenure. We are grateful for her leadership and look forward to continuing the work and advancing systems change for all of California’s youngest children and their families,” said Kitty Lopez, Chair of First 5 Association of California.

Throughout her career, Dr. Burke Harris has been a powerful voice for public health, a role she has continued to embrace during the pandemic such as communicating the need for preventative measures that can help slow down the spread of COVID, and the importance of vaccinations. During these challenging times, she has also encouraged self-care and utilizing available tools to help protect children from social isolation and learning losses. “Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’ contributions as California’s First Surgeon General, Chair of the First 5 California Commission, a pediatrician and mother have led to landmark changes to California’s public policy landscape. She is an equity champion and a staunch advocate for children. We are grateful for her leadership in our work to create safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children,” said Camille Maben, executive director of First 5 California.

In her role with First 5 California, Dr. Burke Harris has been a leading proponent of ensuring that children have safe, stable and nurturing relationships and environments, and she is focused on implementing this vision for the future of children. She has identified policies and practices that are essential to creating happy, healthy and fulfilling lives for all families.

“Dr. Nadine Burke Harris has dedicated her career to championing the critical need to protect young children from early adversity that negatively affects optimal health, development and well-being. Children and families across our diverse state have benefited from her pioneering vision, focus, and perseverance in advancing a healthy, just and equitable California for all. Her leadership will be greatly missed, but our commitment to serving young children must continue: We must carry forward and advance her work to strengthen child and family serving systems that can prevent and respond to childhood trauma. First 5 LA extends its heartfelt appreciation for her three years of service to the people of California,” said Kim Belshé, executive director at First 5 LA.

Dr. Burke Harris has laid an important groundwork to ensure that children have the best possible start in life, and even as she exits the administration, California’s leaders must continue to invest in positive emotional, mental and behavioral outcomes for the state’s youngest children. She has been at the forefront of partnering with the First 5 California network and through her leadership, continues to collaborate with legislators, state agencies and organizations to help advance the health and well-being of children and families. First 5 California, the First 5 Association and First 5 LA profoundly thank Dr. Burke Harris for her efforts to support children and work to protect them from trauma and adversity.

About First 5 Association
First 5 Association of California is the voice of the 58 First 5 county commissions, which were created by voters in 1998 to ensure our young children are healthy, safe, and ready to learn. Together, First 5 touches the lives of more than one million kids, families, and caregivers each year, and strengthens our state by giving kids the best start in life. Learn more at

About First 5 California
First 5 California was established in 1998 when voters passed Proposition 10, which taxes tobacco products to fund services for children ages 0 to 5 and their families. First 5 California programs and resources are designed to educated and support teachers, parents, and caregivers in the critical role they play during a child’s first five years–to help California kids receive the best possible start in life and thrive. For more information, please visit

About First 5 LA
As the state’s largest funder of early childhood, First 5 LA works to strengthen systems, parents and communities so that children are ready to succeed in school and life. An independent public agency, First 5 LA’s goal is to support the safe and healthy development of young children so that by 2028, all children in L.A. County will enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and life. Learn more at