Heinz Awards winner Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. Photo by Jason Henry.

When Dr. Nadine Burke Harris started advocating for the treatment of toxic stress in children, the San Francisco-based pediatrician realized the territory was largely unexplored.

“Ten years ago, I felt like I was shouting from the rooftops,” says Burke Harris, recalling times she addressed rooms of medical professionals who had never heard of the findings linking trauma-related stress suffered in childhood with an increased risk of developing chronic disease, substance abuse, depression and suicide later in life.

Since then, Harris has become a pioneering figure in the area by creating protocols to identify and treat children suffering from toxic stress caused by a variety of factors, including extreme poverty, neglect, or living in unsafe or chaotic surroundings.

For her work, Harris was recently named one of five recipients of the 21st annual Heinz Awards. Established by the Heinz Family Foundation to honor the memory of the late Senator John Heinz, the program recognizes accomplishments that bring about positive, lasting change on a national or international scale. The awards go to outstanding individuals in five key categories, Arts and Humanities, Environment, Human Condition, Public Policy, and Technology, the Economy and Employment.

Like her fellow winners, Harris—who represents the Human Condition category—will receive a cash award of $250,000.

On October 4, Pittsburgh audiences will get to hear from each recipient at The Heinz Awards Presents: Shared Ideals—Creating A Society For All at Carnegie Mellon University.

Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews. Photo by Justin Lubke.

Joining Harris is acclaimed New Orleans musician Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, who received the Arts and Humanities award for his philanthropic efforts to preserve the musical heritage of his native city, and Public Policy winner Michelle Alexander, a criminal justice reform advocate and author addressing the mass incarceration of African-American youth and men in the US.

Also presenting are WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg, who received the award for Technology, the Economy and Employment, and Hal Harvey, who earned the Environment award for his solutions to reduce carbon emissions and worldwide energy waste.

Hal Harvey. Photo by Jason Henry.

Heinz Awards Presents gives each winner a chance to deliver a 5- to 10-minute, TED-like talk. The recipients will then participate in individual and group Q&As moderated by Heinz Endowments president Grant Oliphant.

Heinz Awards director Kim O’Dell believes the series gives recipients the opportunity to influence audiences beyond their respective fields and geographic regions.

“We try and find people who have potential implications for the exciting work going on in Pittsburgh and in other cities,” says O’Dell. “We can help tell their stories.”

Amanda Waltz

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated...