Pediatrician Dr. Harris: ‘Medicine is a calling’
Dr. Pete Harris is committed to community health, from helping families in some of the most remote areas of South America to newborns in Nevada County.
Now, Dr. Harris — who grew up in Colfax and graduated from Colfax High School – brings that same dedication, energy and experience to Western Sierra Medical Clinic. Dr. Harris, a pediatrician with several years of experience, joined Western Sierra in spring 2020.
A life-changing experience in Ecuador after his first year of medical school helped him decide on pediatrics as a specialty.
“It reaffirmed my belief that medicine is a calling, and influenced my desire to care for the most underserved member of these communities – the children,” he says of his time with the Interhealth South America program that took him from Ecuador’s capital of Quito to small villages only accessible by boat in the Amazon rainforest. “The program was a profound experience that altered my perception of health care, societal and personal responsibility.”
Almost a decade later, Dr. Harris’ commitment to providing accessible, quality health care to patients – especially low-income residents – continues with Western Sierra.
“I wanted to practice in a rural, underserved community where physicians are needed,” says Dr. Harris, who completed his pediatrics residency at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) after graduating from Dartmouth College Medical School in New Hampshire. “I wanted to give my kids a chance to grow up in a small town, where everyone knows your name and you can play outside all you want.”
Western Sierra Medical Clinic, a Federally Qualified Health Center much like the one in the San Fernando Valley where Dr. Harris practiced during his pediatrics residency, meets his professional and personal requirements.
“I wanted to join a close-knit and well-established practice where I could continue to grow and learn more from other physicians,” says Dr. Harris, who also practices at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital in the newborn nursery and general pediatric admissions from the emergency room. He is often a newborn’s first pediatrician.
Dr. Harris has extensive experience with chronic conditions, such as asthma and diabetes, and pediatric obesity.
“Encouraging an enjoyment of physical activity and allowing time for kids to play is a positive way to help prevent pediatric obesity,” says Dr. Harris, who played on the Colfax High School basketball team. He remains actively involved in youth sports, including helping on the sideline at Nevada Union High School football games.
His love of sports has led to an interest in sports medicine.
“In college, I majored in Exercise Biology with a concentration on biomechanics, and enjoyed learning about anything athletic or sports related,” says Dr. Harris, who earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Davis. “I loved learning about the torque exerted around joints by muscles and how often simple ergonomic solutions can be found to prevent injuries.”
Away from work, Dr. Harris is kept busy with his two young children and enjoys hiking and running.