academics. He redshirted as a freshman
and received an athletic scholarship his
sophomore year. His baseball career
was stymied his second season when he
was relegated to third string after strong
competition at his position.
Being denied by the NCAA
Clearinghouse steered his focus toward
the classroom, and Harris found his
competitive drive for athletics bled over
onto his academics. In 2006, Harris took
a seat in the front of Dr. Russell Grubbs’
Organic Chemistry 1 lab.
“This class won’t be easy and half of you
won’t be here come midterms,” Grubbs told
the class on the first day. “But I promise
you that if you work hard and put in the
time, you’ll succeed.”
Harris didn’t know it then, but these
words would impact his life for the better.
“My class was tough, and when Stuart
took Organic Chemistry 1, he got a B,” said
Grubbs, noting most students drop a letter
grade in Organic Chemistry 2, which often leads
to them failing the program.
“He returned the next year and got an A,”
Grubbs said. “After that, I knew he had a special
drive and would go on to do great things.”
Harris graduated cum laude in 2009 and
credits his academic success to his professors,
many of whom he remains in contact with today.
He was a member of several academic clubs
and played two seasons for the inaugural men’s
lacrosse team. He earned Division II lacrosse
Academic All-American honors as a senior.
Daniel Tussy, his college roommate and
former lacrosse teammate, said Harris often
studied into the early morning but was always up
hours before practice for additional coursework.
He was “on a different level,” Tussy said.
“Stu had a great disposition about him. He
cared about other people and was also smart,” he
said. “Everything he did (was) to be successful
and serve others later in life.”
Serving others
It was March 2014, and Harris was on his
second medical mission to Mindanao Island
in the Philippines. As he and a handful of
Reach medical missionaries lay in sleeping
bags beneath mosquito nets, sheets of rain
pummeled the tin roof of their bamboo shack,
nestled in a small Aboriginal tribal community
in the isolated mountains.
Near midnight, Harris, a Reach doctor and
nurse, and a cameraman abruptly awoke to
frantic screams and pounding at their door.
A local man had crashed his motorcycle
while trying to traverse the steep, winding
mountain roads. Blood dripped from multiple
deep lacerations on his face and mouth. Being
nearly four hours from the nearest hospital —
eight hours in the rain — Harris and the others
brought the man inside and began operating.
After a short time, he was sent home, bruised
and bandaged, but alive.
The incident occurred during Harris’ third
week of a monthlong journey to provide medical
treatment to the country’s indigenous people.
More than 6,000 had been killed in 2013 in
Typhoon Haiyan, and many survivors lived
hours from hospitals and doctors.
While in Mindanao, Harris and Reach
missionaries provided free clinical care
to more than 1,300 people and performed
63 free minor surgeries, from removing
cysts to treating dental abscesses. Harris
also distributed 48 water filters, enough to
provide an estimated 48 million gallons of
clean drinking water, through the nonprofit
organization Waves for Water.
Harris, who made mission trips a priority
after graduating from GCU, wanted to make
the Mindanao journey a humanitarian
experience. He became a clean-water
courier for Waves for Water and distributed
filters to areas without running water
to combat sickness caused by water
Harris asked for donations via social
media and relayed his work to those who
donated through daily blog posts and
weekly videos as part of his personal
project, Reach for the Philippines
#TeamSTU. His goal is to encourage people
in the United States who can’t help abroad
to make an impact at home.
“I have a personal quote that I say to myself
daily: ‘You can’t save the world; all you can do is
your best. Though, be assured if you hadn’t, the
impact would be that much less,’” Harris said.
He plans to create annual humanitarian-
focused, international medical mission trips
after completing his current residency at
Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura,
“I encourage people to do what they can to
help, even if it’s just in their community,” he
said. “Too often we forget about the person
who needs help right next to us.”
Contagious giving
In February, Harris and one of his best friends
from Washington, Brad Ferguson, reunited.
Ferguson, who owns Zen Studios, which
creates short documentary-style videos, had
heard about Harris’ international medical
mission trips and asked to join the March trip
to the Philippines.
Ferguson produced a short film about the
trip for Reach to use as a promotional video
for future outreach, and he donated all of its
proceeds — expected to be nearly $31,000 —
to the nonprofit.
Ferguson, who was in the shack the night of
the motorcycle accident, raved about Harris’
“impressive skill and poise.” He admires
Harris’ intelligence and kindheartedness.
“He always had this special drive, and I
think what he did in the Philippines and the
fact that he is a doctor is a testament to the
impact he has made,” he said.
“Only a special person is able to do the
things Stu does.”
Watch Harris tell the story of his work in the Philippines a
Harris, a doctor of osteopathic medicine, sits outside the
Tell Science building, where he took classes en route to
graduating cum laude in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree
in human biology.
photo by darryl webb
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