2020 Tillman Scholar

Khadidja Harrell

Air Force
University of Washington
M.P.H., Global Health and Graduate Certificate in International Humanitarian Response

“Even with resources, the first year of my son’s life was challenging. I want to make sure every family with a cleft-affected child has the means to help their child thrive.”

Khadidja grew up a military brat in Belgium. And like others in her family, she joined the military to serve, pursue an education and travel the world. Khadidja’s first commission came at Duke University through the ROTC program. That was followed by medical school at Meharry Medical College and a pediatrics residency while in the military in San Antonio, Texas. 

Khadidja realized her interest in humanitarian emergencies during her 2010 deployment for the Haiti earthquake. That experience prompted her to become an international health specialist spending the remainder of her active duty career planning global health engagements at U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

In 2018 Khadidja became a mother, providing another life-changing experience. Her son Zander was born with a cleft lip and palate, prompting her to leave active duty after 11 years of service to enable more time and flexibility for his care. Those experiences have culminated into her becoming a craniofacial pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, taking care of children born with craniofacial (skull and face) differences. Through this position, she will participate in the Partners in African Cleft Training (PACT) program, working with hospitals in Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria to enhance their capabilities to take care of children born with clefts. Khadidja is pursuing a master of public health in global health to contribute to PACT’s sustainability and achieve its goal of creating a quality, Africa-based model where local interdisciplinary cleft teams objectively assess their outcomes and ensure quality of results for children born with clefts.  

Khadidja continues her service with the Washington State Air National Guard.