Dr. Michele Harper
Emergency room physician and author of the New York Times-bestselling The Beauty in Breaking
Photo Credit: Nicoe Mondestin
About Michele Harper
Dr. Michele Harper is an emergency room physician and the author of The Beauty in Breaking, a memoir of service, transformation, and self-healing. In her talks, Dr. Harper speaks on how the policies and systemic racism in healthcare have allowed the most vulnerable members of society to fall through the cracks, and the importance of making peace with the past while drawing support from the present. In each anecdote, she shines a light on the disenfranchisement of patients and providers alike due to poverty, profiling, sexism, and stigmas.
Speaking with honesty and compassion, Dr. Michele Harper reflects on her journey from navigating a complicated family in Washington D.C. to attending Harvard, where she pursued emergency medicine and met her husband. They stayed together through medical school—until two months before she was scheduled to join the staff of a Philadelphia hospital, when he told her he couldn’t move with her. Her marriage at an end, Dr. Harper began a new career in a new city, as a newly single woman. Longlisted for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Nonfiction, The Beauty in Breaking tells how she learned to bring insight and empathy into the emergency room, and how recognizing and mending physical, emotional, and psychological breaks are all crucial parts of the healing process.
A graduate of Harvard University and the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, Dr. Michele Harper has worked for over a decade in various hospitals, including being the chief resident at Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx and an attending physician in the emergency department at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Philadelphia.
Racism: Our Most Crucial Public Health Crisis
As an emergency room physician, Dr. Michele Harper often experiences firsthand the repercussions of systemic racism and sexism in the medical field. Anti-Black and anti-woman policies and prejudices not only lead to disparities in care for already disadvantaged populations, but when the face of expertise is perceived as exclusively white and male, Black doctors and their patients suffer the consequences. Dr. Harper addresses the inequalities faced by health providers at the hands of patients, employers, licensing boards and more. She also explores the importance of dismantling bigotry on a personal level as well as a structural one, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified existing inequalities.
Dr. Harper can adapt this talk for both medical professionals and general audiences.
Black Butterfly Theorem: From Childhood Trauma to a Transcendent, Healthful Self
In this talk based on her memoir, The Beauty in Breaking, Dr. Michele Harper candidly shares stories of resilience—not in order to romanticize trauma, but instead to honestly acknowledge life’s many challenges. She explores how facing hardship with integrity can lead to healing for ourselves and others—and ultimately create meaningful personal and social change.Categories: Healthcare + Medicine Speakers, College + University Speakers, Current + Social Issues Speakers, Diversity + Inclusion Speakers, First-Year Experience Speakers, Library + Community Reads Speakers, Motivational + Inspirational Speakers, Social Justice Speakers, Wellness Speakers, Women's Interest Speakers
Praise for Michele Harper
Praise for The Beauty in Breaking
The Beauty in Breaking takes us into the life in an emergency room—the drama, the adrenaline, the emotion—with such immediacy that I could not help but be completely enthralled by the individual stories of the patients that Michele Harper treats. But this powerful, poignant page-turner of a book also tells a much larger and universal story about how healing actually happens, not just for broken bodies but for broken hearts and souls. In sharing the stories of her patients and her own life, Harper shows us that that healing begins only after we are broken open ourselves. And she shows us with hopeful, heartbreaking clarity that it comes from healing each other.— Kerry Egan, author of On Living
I would be so happy if my future doctors were reading this book.— Elizabeth Gilbert
Riveting, heartbreaking, sometimes difficult, always inspiring.— The New York Times Book Review
The Beauty in Breaking is a compelling page-turner about how Dr. Michele Harper took a broken childhood and wove herself into a strong, honest, compassionate doctor. A must read.— Louann Brizendine, M.D., author of The Female Brain
Tackling such painful subjects as domestic abuse, trauma, and racism with grace and wisdom, this eloquent book probes the human condition as it chronicles a woman’s ever evolving spiritual journey. A profoundly humane memoir from a thoughtful doctor.— Kirkus
Taking on the painful topics of trauma, domestic abuse, and the ‘ubiquitous microaggressions faced by people of color,’ Harper witnesses the resilience of the human spirit of her patients and begins her own process of self-healing…[t]his powerful story will resonate with readers.— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Harper’s words inspire hope and understanding of the importance of peace and acceptance of the past. Poignant, helpful, and encouraging, [her] lessons from life in and outside of the emergency room ultimately teach readers how to trust the healing process.— Library Journal
In this illuminating memoir, an African American emergency room doctor finds that her patients’ stories lead her to make connections between her work and the larger world.— Shelf Awareness
Books by Michele Harper
Media About Michele Harper
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- Michele Harper travels from Maryland
The Beauty in Breaking
“The Beauty in Breaking takes us into the life in an Emergency Room—the drama, the adrenaline, the emotion—with such immediacy that I could not help but be completely enthralled by the individual stories of the patients that Michele Harper treats. But this powerful, poignant page-turner of a book also tells a much larger and universal story about how healing actually happens, not just for broken bodies but for broken hearts and souls. In sharing the stories of her patients and her own life, Harper shows us that that healing begins only after we are broken open ourselves. And she shows us with hopeful, heartbreaking clarity that it comes from healing each other.” —Kerry Egan, author of On Living