Dare to Dream: Dr. Bernard Tells His Journey From Physician, NASA Astronaut to Successful Entrepreneur
One only has to look at the impressive life and career of Bernard Harris to realize that he is indeed what he often describes himself as: "a dreamer who believes nothing is impossible." Trained as a physician, Bernard combined his talents and initiative to also serve as a scientist and astronaut at NASA (including becoming the first Black American to walk in space) and to later push the limits as a successful entrepreneur in the realm of space innovation, healthcare and science education.
Bernard is currently President and Chief Executive Officer of Vesalius Ventures, Inc., a venture capital accelerator, that invest in early-stage companies in Medical Informatics and Technology (Telemedicine).
Prior to Vesalius Ventures, Dr. Harris was at NASA for 10 years, where he conducted research in musculoskeletal physiology and disuse osteoporosis. Later, as Head of the Exercise Countermeasure Project, he conducted clinical investigations of space adaptation and developed in-flight medical devices to extend astronaut stays in space, which involved the use of telemetry (the science of sending and receiving telecommunication information from remote locations).
In 1990, he was selected as a NASA astronaut and flew his first mission three years later. As payload commander of STS-63, the first flight of the joint Russian-American space program, Bernard accomplished his childhood dream by completing a walk in space, becoming the "First African American to walk in Space", and conducted the first telemedicine conference from space with the Mayo Clinic. 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.
He is also founder and president the Harris Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization he began 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.
In addition, Bernard is a member of the board of some of the leading technology companies in the world. Collectively, he 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, Bernard 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.
He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the NASA Space Flight Medal, NASA Award of Merit, being named a fellow of the American College of Physicians, and recipient of the 2000 Horatio Alger Award.
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