From what she sees at her clinic in San Francisco’s Bayview district, Dr. Nadine Burke has come to believe that childhood stress, trauma and poverty can lead to physical changes and illness in adulthood. Burke joins us to talk about her practice — and her groundbreaking theories — as part of our “First Person” series on the leaders, innovators and others who make the Bay Area unique.

Nadine Burke, medical director and founding physician of the Bayview Child Health Center, a children's health clinic serving the Bayview neighborhood and a satellite clinic of California Pacific Medical Center

  • Scott Randolph

    Sorry to be so self-involved, but what does bullying on its own seem to do. Though I was never abused and my parents’ mental illnesses were in check in those days, and I never missed a meal or feared being homeless (short of nuclear war), the perception that the world outside my home was replete with people who relshed giving me pain has affected every aspect of my life…and inflammatory illness seems a part of it.

    • Mary

      Hi Scott,
      I am 65 years old and I too was a victim of bullying from peers for all of elementary and middle school years. At age 32 I was finally able to forgive those who did these awful things to me, taking a course in self-improvement.  I have now come to see that I would never have been able to help children as I have for the past 36 years, without that experience.  If there is some way youcan turn around what you learned from that awful period of your life into a way to help others, you like me may recover fully and find there was a reason for you to have that gone through what you did.  It has been the only way for me to let go.  Maybe directly helping, doing some U-Tube videos or writing a book could be the answer for you.  I pray that you recover, as I have.

      Mary Scholer, OTR/L, Director
      Simoneon Pediatric Development Center

  • Guest

    I am finally learning the coping skills and actions to take to deal with life in a 12 step program.  I was wondering if a regular health class building these types of life skills, as well as community, has ever been considered in the schools?

  • Hobarts

    Workingvwith grieving children, I believe early significant losses are also factors in childhood stress and later illnesses.

  • George

    Hey Scott,Please share with your guest that this listener (me) thinks she is “dialed” and is great to listen too.  Thank her for all her work!  It is needed, not just in Hunters Point, but across the nation.

  • Adrienne Larocque PhD

    Chronic production of stress hormones can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Has Dr. Burke looked at the role of a supportive diet to address any of the behavioral issues related to environmental stress? This would be particularly important for growing children.

  • StillHope

    I hope the audio or a transcript will be available from this program?

  • John Troidl

    Awesome show!  Please provide an audio… there are several parents I can think of right off who I want to share this with!!

  • Ramona

    Sounds like we all need to volunteer at children’s centers and schools teaching/practicing sitting.  A five minute meditation sit and teach children how to teach other children how to meditate. 

  • Dornolan

    Another response to stress, besides fight or flight is freeze.  Some children (and adults) exposed to threats shut down emotionally and do not learn the interpersonal skills that will help them thrive.  They may not be seen as disruptive, but they are also suffering and may have a lifelong elevated response to stress.

    • Lisa Baca

       Having experienced this personally, I also know its nearly invisible to others. Its usually the disruptive one that calls the attention.

    • Tlcsfhome

      Yes, freeze is often not recognized and a symptom of trauma.  It seems this is at the root of many physical and emotional issues.  The system has been overwhelmed so much, it just shuts down.

  • Kadie

    Thank you for making the point about how difficult it is for teachers who have many children, in the same classroom, with some of these issues.

    Two years ago, I taught a 7th grade math class in Berkeley. There were at least 5 students who were living in stressful situations at home, drugs, alcohol, prostitution, etc.

    I was constantly in fear of a student ‘going-off’ because it had a cascading effect on the other stressed students. That class was in chaos often and the administrators want to blame the teacher.

    The school system, because of costs, was not interested in providing services unless the PARENT made the request. And, of course, these are not the parents who are savvy enough to request services.

  • Prasanthi Patel

    School-based health centers provide care for a student from collaborating with academic counselors, faculty, mental health therapists, and health educators.. Here at Balboa High School in San Francisco, we always have a health care provider than can also prescribe and refer cilents to a more extensive haelth care ssytem. Dr Burek, what would be your take on tihs as a way to promote youth health care?

  • Lisa Baca

    Dr. Burke is a treasure in San Francisco, and we really need her insight. I know that she has confined her work to studying the effects of poverty, but I know for a fact that these effects cascade into the next generation even if the family is better off, I have seen it in my own family and am trying to help my children cope with it. Just listening to the program this morning made me think about how this is extends beyond the parameters of her work.

  • L Cuttler

    Congratulations to Dr. Burke for recognizing illness results from underlying causes of stress, trauma and poverty.  Illiteracy, specifically dyslexia, is one specific cause for all the above.   As an educational specialist in the field since 1986 I would like to know specifically how to help the Bayview and CPMC in literacy effortss.   Lucille Cuttler   415 665  2768 or 415 203 9485

  • Guest

    Great program, love KQED

  • Theresa Cangelosi

    Reversing chronic health issues and the effects trauma has on all of us (in one way or another) can be “daunting”, and Dr. Burke is correct to say we must find a way to act.  
    As a psychotherapist who specializes in the treatment and education of trauma prevention and resolution, Dr. Burke is inspiring and her hope contagious.  Her comprehensive plan to begin with assessing early in life by parents, doctors and teachers through educating these caretakers is practical and essential.  Attachment issues, trauma and violence can lead to long-term mental and physical health issues that can and should be addressed early in life to prevent suffering, save money and support our citizens in achieving our higher potential.
    Thank you Dr. Burke for your wisdom and leadership.  I would love to join you in this humanitarian movement.

    Theresa Cangelosi

  • Notserp4

    This was a great show, and it should be widely spread.   I left clinical psychology two years ago, and have recently studied religion.  I also treated a lot of children exposed to trauma  — foster care and group home children and others.   I would not be in the process of changing careers if there was adequate funding of programs for children’s mental heallth in California.    We should all contact our elected California representatives and insist that they increase funding for mental health programs in schools.   We need good funding for education, but a traumatized child is unable to learn.    Psychological health needs to be addressed as well.
    Elizabeth Preston, Ph.D.

  • walts

    A good question from San Mateo about where to find help.  Nadine should let us all know that.  In future, could Michael have first persons prepare to answer at least where to find help on the internet?

  • Guest

    I find the host’s comment about meditation or mindfulness sounding ‘corny’ as completely insulting and ignorant. Forms of meditation and concentration practice are time tested techniques in many other cultures for managing the human experience. Besides, current research is increasingly investigating and supporting mindfulness skills as self management practices with a host of mental and physical health benefits. I invite him into the 21st century one of these years. Otherwise, the guest’s work is incredible and vital. Thanks for presenting the show. 

    • Ramona

       I agree with about that comment.  It wouldn’t have hurt to mention some of the MRI studies of the brain on meditation. 😉

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