“Although Perfusion necessitates creative intervention, acting allows me to open an artsy creative side…”
William Harris, CCP
I think it’s pretty evident that perfusionists are innovative and passionate in their approach to life as well as work. Most perfusionists are successful in other endeavors of their personal lives as well as their professional development. Many attain Masters and phD letters in the field of medicine, and conversely, quite a few engage their entrepreneurial efforts in areas somewhat further removed form the nest we call cardiac medicine.
I introduce you to Mr. William Harris, CCP, not as the excellent perfusionist most of you know him to be, rather as a up and coming film actor, who is becoming more and more noticed by his stage peers and directors.
I had the opportunity to work with Bill, a few months ago as we were both Locums perfusionists at the same hospital. I was fascinated by his secondary career, and asked him if he would perhaps share his insight as to mixing paradigms so divergent as acting and perfusion, and integrating these disparate endeavors into his personal and professional lives.
You can see more of Bills’ work at the following sites:
YouTube: William Harris
Enjoy the interview, It is a fun read 🙂
Interview with an ACTING Perfusionist: William Harris, CCP
Tell us a bit about you, your entrance into the medical career- and why you chose perfusion as a career as opposed to the myriad of options that are out there?
Well, I would say that I was probably destined for the medical field as I remember as a young boy initially wanting to be an ambulance driver (EMT as we know them professionally). I do remember desiring the excitement of the siren, the crash scene, etc etc. Also, my mother and sister were registered nurses so the dinner conversations were mostly health related which also may have had a strong impact on me. Initially, I was interested in attending to medical school, but my early grades in freshman and sophomore years were somewhat iffy due to an uber -active party schedule, and I was just not sure that I wanted to be involved as a Doctor in a profession that was constantly being attacked by our litigious practices in this country. In my Junior year at Ohio Wesleyan, I was exposed to this extraordinary Perfusion field by childhood friend Steven Fried who was a second year student at The Ohio State Extracorporeal Technology program. I was fascinated by the level of responsibility and control that the Perfusionist had as well as the verbal interaction with all specialties in the operating room in accomplishing a single goal of saving a human being.
As well as perfusion, you have pursued a career in acting, can you discuss that and how you juggle the these two divergent career paths and make them work for you?
The acting career started about 8 years ago when I realized how many productions were then being filmed in and around my adopted town of New Orleans, generating the name Hollywood South. Then, I was working full time, as a clinical Perfusionist so balancing the two careers was difficult considering on-call duties and working a full schedule in a busy department. My colleagues would help out when they could, but I did miss some terrific film opportunities due to my Perfusion position. Upon departing from my medical center after a 30-year successful career, I viewed that as a sign to follow my heart and further invest some time in acting to a great degree. The part time status offered an opportunity to take more acting classes and audition for more roles. Contracting my Perfusion services both in and out of town has not only enabled me to “pay the bills” but also kept my clinical skills sharp in many applications of Perfusion. Fortunately and enjoyably, I have been able to maintain public speaking engagements in several selected medical meetings as well.
I still love Perfusion as I am able to utilize my God-given talents and experiences in saving patients and altering generations of families lives in a timeless manner. I have been fortunate to be in the forefront of new technology and procedures that go well beyond what our blessed ancestors had to work with. So we do our part in history to continue this work toward improved patient care. Although Perfusion necessitates creative intervention, acting allow me to open an artsy creative side similar to what I felt when I played trumpet for so many years. As my music offers, I am able to deliver a message thru my character roles to potential viewers. I try to accept roles that offer positive messages or at least those that stimulate people to think and consider their own lives in relationships and behavior that alter these interactions. I am really not interested in roles that only provide a negative or severely violent mode.
What is your end goal with your acting career- are there any parallels that you can draw from either paradigm that helps you in the other field?
The beautiful thing about my acting bit is that I have no structured “end goal” in mind. My past and present goals have been to have fun while challenging myself in an unfamiliar area where I could learn and improve my skills while working with a myriad of creative artists. If I stop having fun or my personal acting skills ever limit me from growing, then I will be able to say, “I accomplished another feat that I truly enjoyed.” Perfusion also offers tremendous challenges to us mentally, physically, and spiritually. We must work hand in hand with many human professionals of varying personalities and rely on both they and our mechanical equipment to complete our responsibilities successfully. Both require strong interaction where excellent communication is paramount and patience is required. Both fields stimulate stressful situations and when we learn to absorb this intensity and calm our surroundings, the atmosphere and environment of the whole group improves. I taking pride in assisting with this objective to the best of my abilities.
Since we are discussing acting- what are your favorite roles so far (supply pics plz) and if there was ever an opportunity- what character would you want to play in a movie involving heart surgery- and why?
I have been involved in about 50 movies, 8 television shows, and a few commercials. Up to this point, most of my roles have been in BG (background) but fortunately many have been featured so that I am in the middle of the action with relatively good face time. I would say that every role and movie was unique for sure meeting and working with incredibly creative and talented people both well known and others like me just starting out. If I had to choose just a few, working with Sir Anthony Hopkins in The Kidnapping of Freddy Heineken because he is a legend, riding horseback on an upcoming Western, Genetic scientist in Jurassic World with BD Wong and Chris Pratt, Dallas Buyers Club because it was such a good movie. I know I am cheating some other great experiences but those are a few that come to mind.
William Harris with Sir Anthony Hopkins
Looks like some sort of Sci Fi thriller with Mutant Cloning?
Last but not least- what is your impression of perfusion trends regarding new media, blogs, Twitter, and FB?
Are there pros and cons- if so what are they?
I have been personally involved with the internet and various blogs for well over a decade so that I have experienced both the “good” and the “bad” of such modalities. In one respect, communication thru these forms of media can really help individuals find opinions and possible answers to questions that come up on a daily basis. The problem is choosing the correct answers with the abundance of opinions usually without proven science behind them. But they are opinions, which can help formulate an individuals approach to solutions thru careful evaluation. What I most dislike about the countless blogs is often the inability to settle differences of opinion in a professional or verbal way with relative tone. When the array of personal insults begin on a blog, I just shut it down right away for there is only so much time in a day and the drama is never necessary to settle differences.
I recently presented at a major Perfusion meeting where over 250 were registered and in attendance. Well, I was informed that right before my presentation, that there was another 300 signed on-line for the meeting and that particular talk. That is really cool for the more individuals that I can assist and teach from my experience in real time, the more I feel that I might achieve and spread positive information in improving patient care.