Dr. Chris Hartnick '81

Dr. Hartnick is head of the Pediatric Otolaryngology division at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and is an associate professor at the Harvard Medical School.  He is also the founder and co-director of Operation Airway, a medical nonprofit whose mission is both to operate and care for children with complex needs as well as to teach local health care teams (in Ecuador, El Salvador, Peru, the Dominican Republic, and Colombia) how to bring resident different health care teams together to care for their own children in a sustainable fashion. 

Operation Airway also aims to identify education and low cost resource deficits that, when impacted, can decrease child mortality in these countries.  In each country, Operation Airway starts by calculating the pediatric airway-related mortality, and working with the local health care teams to problem solve to identify interventions that would be most effective, then evaluates the effect of these interventions thereafter.  Operation Airway has recently published the first paper of this kind describing this new form of mission work!

All three of Dr. Hartnick’s children and his wife have helped out on missions.  Back home, Dr. Hartnick splits his time between seeing, operating on, and caring for children who have difficulty breathing or speaking, teaching surgical trainees their craft, writing grants, and running a laboratory where new lasers are designed that can more accurately "see" and "treat" medical lesions and pathology while preserving the underlying normal structures and minimizing harm. Dr. Hartnick testifies that it's a wonderful, chaotic, and incredibly satisfying job!

When asked about St. Bernard’s, Dr. Hartnick shared the following:
One of my favorite memories comes to mind when I close my eyes and the years reel back to what seems like just yesterday and a new seventh grade teacher with wild brown hair, a wide grin smile, (that only seemed to disappear when we were not paying attention and “loving” the subject presented) arrived and we, who were Stuart Johnson’s first class, helped usher him in and were the first recipients of his homespun created and carefully constructed Latin textbook?  When my longtime friend Rob Garrett ’81 and I reminisce about St Bernard’s, it is often first to Stuart Johnson we go and his the gift he gave of showing first-hand how following your passion can be both so personally rewarding and so infectious as a path to follow.
Mr. Millhouse was and remains a character larger than life for me and his class, Introductory to Physical Science, was my gateway to a world I did not know, and had no idea at the time, would come to occupy my time for so many years to come.  Mr. Millhouse, with his clear crisp language, told us right up front that IPS would be a difficult class.  We would have to think (not just regurgitate), we would have to write well, we would have to synthesize, and we would have to describe the problems we encountered, and how we might confront these difficulties and brainstorm together to solve these issues.  I have visited Mr. Millhouse over the years at his beautiful Hacienda Cusin up in the mountains outside of Quito, Ecuador, in Frederick Church country when I have brought my mission group to recalibrate, relax from a week’s hard work, and absorb if only a part of the experience and wisdom Mr. Millhouse oozes, but I have not formally thanked him for providing me with such a standard for life, work, and character.

It is hard to name one favorite teacher as the list is long. Mr. Savarèse taught me French and culture and a love of the “other” and how language allows an entry into other worlds that only enhance your own life and knowledge.  Mr. Lord taught me rigor and structure and how math can help answer the simple and fundamental things we see and observe in life.  As a long time sailor now, when I plot a course, I hear Mr. Lord’s lessons echoing from afar.  Mr. King-Wood taught me a lifelong love of language and writing which has given me a love of reading and has allowed me succeed in a profession where the greatest currency is the ability to think, create, and to put a well-constructed hypotheses and research plan together.

If I took anything from St. B’s, and I shamelessly took a lot, it was that the love of what you do, and the simple pleasure of teaching someone younger what you love and why, and you and the long shadow you cast, are indeed a great part of this lifelong lesson I left with.  Now, as a teacher for many years myself, both at home and abroad at our nonprofit Operation Airway, it has become clear that the simple truths I learned (in grade school no less!) of doing, or showing rather than telling, of leaning in and lending a hand, and bearing witness while helping guide.