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May 16, 2008

From Front Stage to Bed Side, Former Guns N’ Roses
Rocker Graduates Premed from Columbia
Stephen Harris
Stephen Harris
Photograph by Alan Orling

Stephen Harris, once a successful rock musician who fought dyslexia to pursue his other dream—becoming a doctor—is now a significant step closer to realizing that achievement. Harris will graduate from Columbia University next week and begin medical school at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in August.

Fame can take its toll on rock stars, but Harris is one of the survivors. As a bass player and guitarist, he performed with big-name bands, including Guns N’ Roses, The Four Horsemen and The Cult.

“Looking back, my rock career only began because I couldn't seem to do anything else,” Harris said. “I did terribly in school, hated it, hated it. Every time I took a test, I failed it.”

Stephen Harris
Harris was a member of bands Guns N’ Roses, The Cult, and The Four Horseman
Photograph by Robert John

Harris was bright, but for reasons he could not understand, he never seemed to be able to learn. At 16, he flunked out of school. He struggled for years with undiagnosed dyslexia, shunning school as a result. After he was diagnosed, Harris successfully applied to Columbia and enrolled at the School of General Studies as a premed student and credits the University’s disability services office for helping him to pursue his interest in medicine.

Stephen Harris
Harris performed at such famed venues as Madison Square Garden and Wembley Arena.
Photograph by Robert John

Harris recently returned from a life-changing humanitarian trip to the West African nation of Liberia. He traveled there as part of a documentary film crew recording a group of doctors from Mt. Sinai Medical Center who went to provide urgently needed medical care to impoverished communities.

By staying on his current track, the man who once called himself “Haggis” and "Kid Chaos" will answer to the name Dr. Harris by the time he reaches the age of 45.

“I grew up in a home where, unfortunately, a lot of serious illness occurred during my most formative years,” he said. “I learned early on that doctors and medicine equaled relief for some of the people I loved the most.”

Inspired by his trip to Liberia, where he saw numerous women suffering from gynecological cancers, many of which could have been prevented or treated early, Harris hopes to specialize in gynecological oncology and eventually, to provide health care in underserved areas of the world.