Dr. David Harris Jr. is a cornea specialist who pursued his passion for science and optics. The cornea is the transparent layer that forms the front of the eye and produces most of the focusing of light. Corneal procedures performed by Dr. Harris range from minor surgery to life-changing operations such as corneal transplants, a process that allows the surgeon to restore sight to the living and give a profound sense of purpose to the family of the cornea donor at a time of death.
Dr. Harris grew up in Knoxville, and after serving both at sea and in U.S. Navy hospitals for 11 years, he transferred to the Navy Reserve in Knoxville and joined University Eye Specialists in 1989. Fortuitously, UES needed a cornea specialist at a time when Dr. Harris could take the opportunity to return to his hometown. The move home allowed his children to grow up close to their grandparents, the late Polly Anna and David Harris, Sr.
His life-long affiliation with the University of Tennessee – Dr. Harris earned a bachelor’s degree from UT in 1975 and his medical degree from UT Memphis in 1978 – has recently culminated in his being promoted to full professor in the Department of Surgery, having served as chief of the ophthalmology section since 1994. He teaches ophthalmology here at the UT Graduate School of Medicine and at the Hamilton Eye Institute at UT Memphis. Harris feels that teaching stimulates him to remain on the cutting edge of the constantly changing field of ophthalmology, and that caring for patients at UT’s Level One Trauma Center keeps him on the “tip of the sword” well past his military days. Dr. Harris retired from the Navy as a Captain in 1999, but still teaches in the Military Eye Trauma Symposium each year in Bethesda, MD.
Dr. Harris enjoys working and living in East Tennessee because of the mountains, lakes, and various sports seasons. He appreciates the diversity offered by a city with a major university, an excellent public school system, and proximity to the scientific power of Oak Ridge and UT. Dr. Harris also enjoys the arts and entertainment offered in Knoxville and its thriving downtown.
An avid swimmer, hiker and Vol sports fan, Dr. Harris also is an alumnus of the UT Pride of the Southland Band. He plays trombone with the alumni band at the Tennessee homecoming football game each fall, and with the UT Pep-band at Tennessee home basketball games during the winter break.
Community service is an important part of Dr. Harris’ life. He has been the public address announcer for Bearden High School’s boys’ and girls’ soccer teams since 1999. He has volunteered as the Medical Director of the East Tennessee Lions Eye Bank since 1994. He also offers free medical services to less fortunate patients through Knoxville’s InterFaith Health Clinic; Knoxville Area Project Access, a philanthropic project of the Knoxville Academy of Medicine Foundation; and Remote Area Medical (RAM), which provides free care in medically under-served areas around the world.
Dr. Harris is married to Dr. Patricia Harris, a clinical pharmacist, and they have three children who all became physicians: Dr. Lauren Harris, an ophthalmologist and cornea specialist who joined University Eye Specialists in 2014; Dr. David Harris III, an ophthalmologist and cornea specialist who teaches at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary in New York City; and Dr. Andrew Harris, an orthopedic surgeon and hand specialist in Salt Lake City, who plans to join University Orthopedics in Knoxville in 2020. The Harrises have two grandchildren, Heidi Marie Harris and Callaway Lyle Harris.