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Solomon Skelton-Harris

From Bedside to Bench

Shortly after being born, Solomon Skelton Harris was diagnosed with congenital cytomegalovirus (cCMV) and group B streptococcus. For the first three years of his life, he was a regular patient at the M Health Fairview Masonic Children’s Hospital where he received treatment from Mark Schleiss M.D. and Patricia Ferrieri M.D. Now, Skelton Harris is beginning a promising career in medicine, influenced by his diagnosis eighteen years ago at the University of Minnesota.

As a result of these frequent visits to the Masonic Children’s Hospital, Skelton Harris says that he and his family received more than just medical treatment. Ferrieri and Schleiss bonded with the Skelton Harris family, going above and beyond the standard of care. They took the time to get to know the family, forming a long-lasting relationship that continues to this day. The Skelton Harris’ still send both physicians holiday cards and updates on how Solomon is doing. 

Skelton Harris’ positive experience with his physicians ultimately led to a personal interest in medicine, prompting him to reach out to Schleiss and Ferrieri about research opportunities before his senior year of high school. As a student-researcher in Schleiss’ lab, Skelton Harris researched the very same virus he was born with: congenital CMV. 

Skelton Harris’ typical day in the lab involved looking at tissue samples and trying to determine the possibility of retrospectively diagnosing congenital CMV for children who initially went undiagnosed at birth. Having been born with congenital CMV himself, Skelton Harris had a unique perspective while working in the lab.

“When I was in the lab, I was dealing with patient samples and it really struck me how I was one of those patients and I’m now dealing with their samples in the lab,” Skelton Harris says. “It was really an eye-opening experience in which I was able to truly understand the impact that people in labs have on individual patients and how much work they put in.” It is this perspective that allowed him to truly appreciate the work he was doing.

During his time as a student-researcher, Skelton Harris was able to gain invaluable hands-on experience in the lab that culminated in an opportunity to share his findings at the University of Minnesota’s Pediatric Research, Education & Scholarship Symposium (PRESS). As a high school student, Skelton Harris was the youngest presenter in attendance at the event, yet he received exemplary feedback from judges and his fellow attendees alike. Skelton Harris’ command of the material was evident to Schleiss, who praised the young researcher for displaying a deep understanding of the science behind his project.

After working for Schleiss in his lab, Skelton Harris became determined to continue his medical studies, and set a personal goal to attend medical school someday. Skelton Harris is currently studying biology and pre-medicine at Brandeis University outside of Boston, where he is a first-year student. Skelton Harris plans to use the many connections and opportunities offered by both Brandeis University and in the Boston area to continue fostering his passion for medicine.

While Skelton Harris is not certain what path he will follow in the medical field, he loves the idea of working in pediatrics or research to help patients and families who find themselves in similar situations to the one that he and his family were once in. Skelton Harris says that he hopes to be an advocate for families and share their stories, a great attribute in any future physician. Skelton Harris understands the value of humanizing the struggles of a diagnosis thanks to his own experience with CMV. He shared, “You can always talk about the virus, but I think the biggest thing is showing the people it impacts. So putting a face to the virus, a story to the virus.”

Skelton Harris’ story is a great example of how small, positive interactions while receiving medical care can make a huge difference to families and create a ripple effect of positivity. The compassion shown by Schleiss and Ferrieri influenced Skelton Harris’ passion for helping others, leading to an interest in medicine and doing research with his former physician. While these connections may seem small, the impact on Skelton Harris’ life has been extraordinary, much like many aspects of patient care. Their relationship continues to this day, as Schleiss hopes to see Skelton Harris return to the U of M, this time to attend medical school.