Dr. Richard E. Harris II is a board-certified internal medicine physician and pharmacist. Dr. Harris attended the University of Texas at Austin for pharmacy school then pursued medical education at the McGovern School of Medicine in Houston. Dr. Harris has a client-centric view focusing on building relationships and trust through a comprehensive lifestyle medicine system combined with genetic and micronutrient testing.
How did you get into your field?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a physician. After acceptance into medical school, my mother showed me a photo that I had drawn when I was little that said I wanted to be a doctor when I grow up because I wanted to help people. In high school, I strayed from this dream. I fell in love with physics and initially pursued a career in biomedical physics at the University of Texas at Austin. I soon realized that I loved physics but hated math. I switched into biochemistry and thought I wanted to do bench research, but after two years of bench research, I realized that it was not for me. Luckily, I worked in the lab of the dean of the pharmacy school, and he mentioned that he thought I would be a great candidate for pharmacy school. I applied, was accepted, and in my first year of pharmacy school, I realized that I wanted to go to medical school. I’m very grateful that I went to pharmacy school first because it gave me a holistic, head-to-toe approach. We learned a great deal about physiology and the interconnected systems in pharmacy school, but medical school students learn from an isolated system perspective. After finishing residency, I worked for a conventional practice but felt the calling to pursue holistic medicine. I left that group to open a wellness practice focused on lifestyle medicine, nutrigenomics, micronutrient evaluations, and health coaching.
Tell us a little bit about the Strive for Great Health podcast.
Initially, the Strive for Great Health Podcast was something that I envisioned for my friends and family. I used to get the same questions over and over and thought it would be best to put information into a medium where people could consume it at their leisure. I had a couple of friends who had podcasts, and they highly recommended the format. I checked the data, and it showed that the podcasting sphere was growing at an astronomical rate. Once I started podcasting, I fell in love with it. It was a little weird at first to talk to nothing, but you get used to it after a while. The podcast focuses on the benefits of lifestyle medicine, holistic medicine, and behavioral change. I enjoy the science of behavioral change, framing, and the growth mindset. Part of the podcast applies that same logic to health and how you go about changing what you want to change in your health. The podcast also features interviews with business leaders, thought leaders, people with interesting stories, people who have overcome tragedy and triumphed, and anything else I think could be inspiring or helpful to all the listeners.
Why do you think the world needs it?
In the wake of everything that’s happening with COVID-19, I think the most important thing and the focal point in a lot of people’s minds is their health. We see that the worst outcomes are in people with comorbidities like diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and chronic lung disease. Well, eighty percent of cardiovascular disease is preventable; ninety percent of type two diabetes is preventable, eighty percent of chronic lung disease is preventable, forty percent of cancers are preventable. These are five of the six top causes of death, and currently, in the U.S., we spend one in five dollars on health care costs. Conventional medicine is good at keeping us alive and miserable; it’s great for acute care and surgical care but bad for chronic disease. The most important aspect of health, the most critical decision you make every day when it comes to your health, is what you put into your body. It’s a shame that even rudimentary nutrition is absent from medical or pharmacy school curricula. I had to learn everything I currently know about nutrition on my own. The easiest way to explain nutrition and what you should be eating is if it does not walk, swim, run or come from the ground do not eat it, if it has a commercial do not eat it, if it comes in a box do not eat it, if you need a Ph.D. to understand what is on the label do not eat it.
The simplest thing is just to eat real foods. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, meat from sustainably raised farms. A whole food nutrition plan is the first step in stemming the tide of chronic disease that is plaguing America. For more information on my nutritional philosophy, you can see my nutrition plan available for free at www.encouragex.com/curators/greathealthandwellness. You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter @DrHarrisMD. I regularly post health and wellness tips related to lifestyle medicine. My podcast, the Strive for Great Health Podcast, is available on all major podcast platforms and covers many aspects of holistic and lifestyle medicine. Thank you for reading this. I hope you found it valuable and have a blessed day.