Mary Styles Harris
Dr. Mary Styles Harris has spent her career combining her knowledge as a genetics researcher with a drive to provide health care information to minority populations.
Earning her molecular genetics doctorate from Cornell University in 1975 she undertook a National Cancer Research postdoctoral fellowship at the New Jersey University of Medicine and Dentistry to study the structure of viruses. She found this work rewarding but decided that a career change was in her future.
Switching from a research based position to administrative she became the executive director of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia in 1977. Responsible for both raising funds to fight sickle-cell anemia and educating the public about this disease that affects mainly African Americans, she had to find ways to mix advances in science with the practical health concerns of the public. In order to share information about the disease she conducted lectures and produced a series of television documentaries giving her national attention and earning her the Glamour magazine Outstanding Working Woman Award in 1980. And while this type of work was new to Harris she excelled at it and was the recipient of a Science Residency Award from the National Science Foundation.
After completing her science residency in Washington D.C. she returned to Georgia, this time as the state director of Genetic Services for the Georgia Department of Human Resources where she was able to influence nationwide health policies and serve as an advisor to health officials in other states. While working at Genetic Services she was a part-time assistant professor at Morehouse College and at Atlanta University.
In 1987 she founded BioTechnical Communications to produce audiovisual materials on a range of health issues targeted to ethnic minorities. BTC produced the award winning television special “To My Sister…A Gift for Life” a program that examined breast cancer issues facing women of color. Harris is the Founder, President, and Executive Producer of Journey to Wellness a nationally syndicated radio program that provides health care and health literacy information on the CNN Radio Network ,public radio stations, and on journeytowellness.com.
Written by Angela Goad