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Alumnae Spotlight

Dr. Odette Harris Headshot

Dr. Odette Harris, a native of Jamaica, graduated from Mary Help of Christians Academy in 1987. During her time at the Academy she was an active member of student government and National Honor Society. One of her classmates, Elizabeth Hildago, describes the teenage Odette: “She kept our class of 1987 on point! She was a cheerful, inspiring, delightful and humble person.” A quick glance at the 1984 to 1987 yearbooks reveals a young woman who was always smiling, focused on a science project, tuning a violin, delivering a rousing speech in a Forensics competition, or participating in a cheer. Her senior year found her with an acceptance letter to Dartmouth College, where she completed a BA in Biology and went on to Stanford University School of Medicine for her MD. At the University of California, Berkeley, she completed a Master’s in Public Health, Epidemiology. After finishing her neurosurgical residency, she was awarded the William VanWagenen Fellowship from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and completed her fellowship at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica. The Jamaican government awarded her the National Road Safety Council Award for outstanding contribution in traumatic brain injury research. She continues to serve there as a Visiting Consultant in Neurosurgery.


Dr. Harris’ accomplishments are many and impressive, having received numerous other humanitarian, academic and research awards. She is a recognized expert in her field, the first African American woman in neurosurgery, and the first woman in neurosurgery at Stanford to receive an Endowed Professorship. In 2022 Stanford recognized her as one of “Stanford’s 13 Women’s History Makers” and she was named the inaugural recipient of the Kelley M. Skeff Professionalism Award, Stanford Health Care. She also serves on several Boards including an appointed Member of the Defense Health Board’s (DHB) Trauma and Injury Subcommittee and Board Chair, Palo Alto Veterans Institute for Research (PAVIR), and is an appointed Member, National Football League (NFL) Head, Neck and Spine Committee.


In 2019 Forbes and Ebony Magazine added Dr. Harris to the Power 100 List Award as one of the 100 most influential African Americans and she received the National Medical Fellowships (NMF) Award for Excellence in Academic Medicine.  In 2021 she received the Stanford RISE Award, an award bestowed on influential and inspirational alumni.


Dr Odette Harris working in the ORPresently Dr. Harris is the Paralyzed Veterans of America Endowed Professor of Spinal Cord Injury Medicine and Professor of Neurosurgery at Stanford University School of Medicine and is also the Vice Chair, Diversity and Director of Brain Injury. Dr. Harris also serves as the Deputy Chief of Staff, Rehabilitation at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, overseeing several services and programs, including the Traumatic Brain Injury and Polytrauma System of Care, Spinal Cord Injuries/Disorders Center, Blind Rehabilitation Services, Recreational Therapy and Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. 


At the 20th Autumn Gala held on November 29, 2023, Mary Help of Christians Academy named Dr. Harris their inaugural Alumna of Distinction Award recipient. This new award is given each year to an alumna who has made a positive impact on the world and who serves as a role model for current Academy students as they work towards achieving their dreams.















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