Posted by Editor: Erik Piro
June 6,  2019
Dr. Nancy Harris
Article by  Stacy Trevenon
Photos by: (not available)
Irwin Cohen introduced speaker Dr. Nancy Harris, a Moss Beach resident since 1991, by reading her impressive resume.
Dr Harris is a medical doctor who has worked extensively in international health, with indigenous and disenfranchised, disadvantaged cultures. A biology graduate of Yale University, Dr. Harris worked with indigenous cultures in Brazil and then Warao Indians of the Orinoco Delta for a year on a Fulbright Fellowship. That work involved documenting deterioration in health conditions that was associated with acculturation. She completed her medical training at Stanford University medical school, followed by three years practicing with the U.S. National Health Service Corps, working with underserved communities on California's southern border.
Interested in alternative medical traditions, she went to Beijing in 1990 to study traditional Chinese medicine, and then to Tibet, where she spent about six months out of each year for 20 years.
She is the founder of the nonprofit Terma Foundation, based in Half Moon Bay. Its mission  is to provide innovative, culturally appropriate, humanitarian health services to underserved, marginalized and at-risk populations. The Terma Foundation has worked for many years in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. In the last decade that work has branched out with programs in Burma, Brazil and La Paz, Mexico.
The many awards and research fellowships received by Dr. Harris include the Temple Award for Creative Altruism, the San Mateo County Medical Association Distinguished Physician Award, the World of Children Award for Child Healthcare and the Rex Foundation's Bill Graham Memorial Award for Oppressed Children. She has also been a recipient of the Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund, the Threshold Foundation's Person-to-Person Award and the Points of Light Foundation Volunteers Award.
In 2007 and 2008 the Terma Foundation received support from Rotary International for its work in  tuberculosis control.
Much of the presentation focused on the clinic in La Paz, which Rotarian Joe Brennan had visited on a mission in support of children of the area. The clinic's work, set up along holistic and sustainable lines, involved local and international practitioners, with a vision of expanding access to health care. Dr. Harris spoke of the poverty levels there, of the leading causes of death -- heart disease, diabetes and cancer -- and the role of the clinic in emphasizing the importance of leading a healthy life. One of the clinic's needs is a scale, she said, to help in weighing heavier people, tying in with increased awareness about obesity.
She emphasized that the clinic turns no one away and she also mentioned its involvement in counseling over pediatric issues, such as giving nutrition workshops. She spoke of a hope of expanding services and increased outreach such as health screenings. To that end, she spoke of a partnership between La Paz and the Rotary Club of Bolinas  Balandra, with a focus on the need for a mobile clinic, hopefully by the spring of 2020. For that she noted that she also hoped to recruit volunteers and medical professionals.
She mentioned being a fan of the California gray whale, which she had traveled to the west coast of Baja to see, and she became enthralled with them while recuperating from an illness. She shared some delightful footage of that trip and of the friendly whales she had met there. She also shared riveting information: for example, the whales make annual six-thousand-mile migration from Alaska to Baja  California waters. They had been hunted almost to extinction in the 1880s. They have long lifespans and surprisingly large brains. A Save-the-Whales movement commenced in the 1970s. She also offered interesting facts about whales' initiating contacts with fishermen, how mother whales have sometimes brought their calves alongside fishing boats, how they are curious about human beings and interesting information about how they teach their own young. They calve in the Baja Pacific lagoons starting in December,  and  raise and train their babies  in the protected lagoons until April.  They then swim back up the coast to Alaska where they spend the summers recuperating and eating plankton. She showed videos of whales alongside boats, seeming to enjoy being petted by equally curious humans.
At an estimated 40 tons, she said, individual whales can be as big as a school bus.
The high ultra low-frequency sounds gray whales make to communicate can be heard over hundreds of miles.
In answer to Rotarian Erika Pardo's question as to whether whales are protected, Dr. Harris said yes, their numbers now reach about an estimated 22,000. Still, they face endangerment from proposed off-shore mining platforms and equipment which may be built in their mirgration and calving habitats.
June 6, 2019 CLUB MEETING  
(Check back later for updated meeting notes... thank you)
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Our Monthly Rotary Day at the Community Free Breakfast (held at the Lutheran Church will be Wednesday, June 26.  Please sign up with Rose Serdy for a shift for future days (last Wednesday of each month.)