Defining himself as a “dreamer who believes nothing is impossible,” Bernard A. Harris, Jr., M.D. is an accomplished NASA astronaut, physician and businessman. He currently serves as president of The Harris Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization he founded in 1998 to develop math/science education and crime prevention programs for America ’s youth. Because he credits his personal achievements to self-empowerment and self-determination, he uses this foundation to inspire young people that they can do anything, if they only set their mind to it.
He is also the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Partner of Vesalius Ventures, Inc., a venture capital accelerator that invests in early to mid-stage Healthcare technologies and companies.
Harris himself has accomplished many feats throughout his life. In 1990, he was selected as a NASA astronaut and flew his first mission three years later. A payload commander of STS-63, the first flight of the joint Russian-American space program, Harris accomplished his childhood dream by completing a walk in space, becoming the “First African American to walk in Space”. At the time of his retirement from NASA in 1996, he had logged more than 438 hours in space and traveled over 7.2 million miles.
Equally as impressive as his space career, Harris has developed a broad range of business talents. He served as Vice President of SPACEHAB, Inc., where he was involved in business development and marketing of the company’s space-based products and services. He also was Vice President of Business Development for Space Media, Inc., establishing an international space education program for students. In addition, he is a member of the board of some of the leading technology companies in the world. Collectively, Harris has 37 years of total experience in research, management and hardware/product development. He continues to author numerous scientific publications.
A native Texan born in 1956, Harris earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Houston and later obtained a doctorate of medicine from Texas Tech University School of Medicine. A trained aerospace flight surgeon, he completed his residency at the Mayo Clinic and fellowship at the NASA Ames Research Center . Other degrees include a Master of Medical Science from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston , a Master of Business Administration from the University of Houston Clear Lake and two Honorary Doctorate of Science degrees from Morehouse School of Medicine and Stony Brook University (SUNY).
He holds several faculty appointments including, Associate Professor in internal medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch and Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine. Harris serves on several federal, state and corporate boards. He is also a licensed private pilot.
Throughout his life, Harris has received numerous awards and recognition, including election as Fellow of the American College of Physicians, NASA Space Flight Medal, NASA Award of Merit, a fellow of the American College of Physicians, and was the recipient of the 2000 Horatio Alger Award.
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