Stuart Harris, MFA, MD, FACEP
Chief, Mass General Division of Wilderness Medicine
Fellowship Director, Mass General Wilderness Medicine Fellowship
Stuart Harris MD, MFA, FACEP, is an attending physician at the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Emergency Medicine. He is the Chief of the Division of Wilderness Medicine and the Wilderness Medicine Fellowship Director. He is an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Harris received his AB from the University of the South, and his MFA at the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop (Fiction). He received his MD from the Medical College of Virginia. He completed his residency in Emergency Medicine in the Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine Residency Program (HAEMR) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital – and has being having so much fun, he has had a hard time leaving since.
Stuart is a former instructor with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in the Lower 48 and Alaska. He is also both faculty and course director for NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute. Over the last 15 years, he has co-taught the senior medical student wilderness medicine course, Medicine in the Wild, in the Gila Wilderness with colleagues from NOLS. He has been on the NOLS Board of Trustees since 2016. He has developed courses on wilderness medicine for Harvard Medical School students. His drive to increase physician awareness of the interaction between environmental degradation and individual and public health led to the creation of the Wilderness Medicine Fellowship at Mass General.
He has served as medical staff with a National Park Service climbing ranger patrol on Mt. McKinley (Denali National Park), pursued research with the Himalayan Rescue Association in the Khumbu Valley of Nepal (Mt. Everest region), and provided clinical care on Mt. Kilimanjaro on research expeditions. He was among the handful of non-Japanese physicians allowed to respond to the March 11, 2011 tsunami disaster. He has been medical director of the Woods Hole Research Center’s NSF-funded Polaris Project for more than five years, working both to ensure the safety of their world-class climate scientists and to collect data investigating the interactions of changes in climate and environment on human health. He is on the President’s Council of the Woods Hole Research Center.
Former Jobs Held
Firefighter, commercial fisherman in Alaska (long-lining for black cod and halibut and seining for salmon), writer, whitewater and sea-kayak instructor (in Lower 48, Japan, Alaska), high school English teacher in Japan, grad student in English/ biochemistry; EMT/ ambulance driver, carpenter, ditch-digger and ‘mud’ (mortar) mixer, NOLS Instructor (Rocky Mt and Alaska Branches).
Best Job Yet
The one I have now.
- Black Belt, Kodokan Judo, Iwaizumi, Iwate-ken, Japan
- Bronze Medalist, Slalom OC-2, U.S. Whitewater Open Canoe Nationals
- Povinelli Humanism Award, Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine
- Eleanor and Miles Shore Fellowship for Scholars in Medicine, Harvard Medical School
- National Fellow, Explorer’s Club, New York City
- 2010 NOLS Alumni Service Award, National Outdoor Leadership School, Wilderness Medicine Institute
- Symbols of Hope Award, Tsunami Relief, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Tokyo Imperial Hotel
- John E. Thayer III Award, The Japan Society of Boston, for distinguished achievement in cultural exchange
- McGovern Award for Clinical Excellence Nominee, Massachusetts General Hospital
Dr. Harris’ research focuses on investigating the pathogenesis and treatment of high altitude illness and on the interactions of human and global health. Dr. Harris’s research team continues to work closely with the U.S. Army’s Research Institute for Environmental Medicine (Natick, MA and Pikes Peak Summit Lab) on high altitude research funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. In collaboration with the Woods Hole Research Institute, his division is pursuing research in far eastern Siberia and western Alaska examining the interaction between human and environmental health on the Polaris Project. Research with multiple different departments at Mass General and at Brigham & Women's Hospital (Neurology, Cardiology, Surgery, Pulmonary and Critical Care, Radiology) is ongoing.
More about Dr. Harris's Research
His group’s high altitude research focuses on developing an objective syndromic diagnosis for the acute CNS dysfunction caused by acute exposure to hypobaric hypobaria (high altitude). Just as acute coronary syndrome is defined by a mixture of subjective complaints (i.e., chest pain) with objective findings of characteristic EKG changes (ST segment elevations) and positive biomarkers (troponin), he is working to establish that the disease caused by the universal life-threat of hypoxia on the brain can be proven to have an objective diagnosis–and deserves nothing less.
In these efforts, he is working with colleagues on innovative CNS imaging techniques (e.g., optic nerve sheath ultrasonography/near infrared spectroscopy/ portable magnetic resonance devices) and colleagues at local and leading national research labs to identify biomarkers for acute CNS dysfunction. Part of this work includes collaboration with Mass General experts Dr. Vamsi Mootha and Dr. Warren Zapol to help move the potential therapy of hypoxia for CNS mitochondrial disease forward from the bench to the bedside.
In concert with leading international high altitude physiologists and physicians, he has created the International High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) Registry. This Registry has been adopted as the global standard. He has been named Registry Master, Chair of the Registry Steering Committee, and Executive Committee Member for the International Society for Mountain Medicine.
A guiding and strategic focus of the Division is our work investigating how changes in the climate and natural environments influence human health. We have a deep expertise in the use of narrative to give appropriate meaning to seemingly isolated scientific data. This has been a central personal and professional focus since Dr. Harris’s time in Japan 1989-91 (where he completed a novel exploring the role of changes in the environment on human well-being). We are physicians and scientists and believe we have a professional obligation to increase awareness of the profound dangers posed by changes in the biosphere on human well-being. We advocate for rational, apolitical, data-driven public policy changes to safeguard human health. A partial introduction to Dr. Harris’s work on climate change and human health was published in Orion magazine.
Dr. Harris’s work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Center for the Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology, Mass General, the National Science Foundation, and Harvard Medical School.
Attending Physician, Mount Auburn Hospital, Cambridge, MA
Attending Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital Emergency Dept.
Assistant Fellowship Director, Mass General Wilderness Medicine Fellowship
Justin grew up in western Washington, on the immediate northern edge of the Olympic National Park. It was this proximity to one of the most beautiful places of our country that sparked his interest in the outdoors. Justin attended the University of Washington (Evolutionary Genetics), then relocated to Boston immediately after graduation in 2003 to take a job in a nuclear medicine research lab, then attended the University of Vermont College of Medicine (’09). During the months and years spent in Vermont and Maine, he extensively explored the Green (VT) and White (NH) mountains, as well as the Adirondack Mountains of New York. After falling in love with New England and making the decision to pursue a career in emergency medicine, he moved to Boston for residency where he has been since.
Justin graduated from the Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine Residency in 2013 and started his fellowship immediately following. He joined the emergency medicine faculty at Mount Auburn Hospital in 2014 after fellowship graduation and stepped into the role of Assistant Fellowship Director in April 2018.
"The Mountains are calling, and I must go." -John Muir
Jessica McTighe, MPAS, PA-C, DiMM
Co-Lead Wilderness Medicine Physician Assistant
Jessica McTighe completed her BS in Zoology from Colorado State University, she obtained her initial experience in emergency medicine spending several years working on an ambulance, teaching EMS curriculum, and in a community Emergency Department in Boulder, Colorado before moving to Boston where she pursued PA studies at Northeastern University Physician Assistant Program. Jessica serves an integral role in the Mass General Wilderness Medicine Fellowship and the Division of Wilderness Medicine. She recently received her DiMM certification and actively participates in wilderness education both within the division and within the community. Her goals are to increase the PA presence within wilderness medicine and create more opportunities for like-minded individuals.
Amy Cameron, PA-C
Co-Lead Wilderness Medicine Physician Assistant
Amy graduated from Clarkson University in Upstate NY with a BS in Biology and Social Sciences. After completing her BS, she worked at Dana Farber Cancer Institute as a medical assistant in the Gynecology Oncology division. She then went on to obtain her PA degree from Tufts Medical School Physician Assistant Program as part of the inaugural class. Amy serves an integral role in the Mass General Wilderness Medicine Fellowship and the Division of Wilderness Medicine.