March 16, 2001
Volume XXXIV, No. 11

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Garza appointed as associate vice president for South Texas initiative

Dr. Jaime R. Garza Dr. Jaime R. Garza will continue his clinical practice while adding regional responsibilities.

Dr. Jaime R. Garza, associate professor of surgery and chief of the division of plastic and reconstructive surgery, has been named associate vice president for the South Texas/Border Region health professions education initiative (STBI). Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, president, announced the appointment on March 1.

In his new role, Dr. Garza will work with Dr. Mario Ramirez, the longtime Rio Grande Valley physician and former member of The University of Texas System Board of Regents, who continues as vice president for South Texas initiatives at UTHSC. "Dr. Ramirez is an icon in South Texas, and he is my mentor," Dr. Garza said. "I am very excited about the opportunity to work alongside someone of his stature, someone who has been committed to the children and families of South Texas for so many years."

Rapport with young

Dr. Garza, a former college and professional football player before entering medical school, has demonstrated that he has the ability to motivate young people. "In addition to being an outstanding and nationally recognized surgeon, Dr. Garza has spoken at numerous workshops for students considering health and science careers, and he is dedicated to our future generations," Dr. Cigarroa said. "We could not have made a better selection for this important position."

The Health Science Center coordinates a number of educational pipeline programs to interest promising minority students in the health professions and in research. Since 1996, about 1,000 students have taken part in Med/Ed, a program offered through Dr. Ramirez's office in McAllen. "What Dr. Ramirez has done with Med/Ed in the Valley, we want to see expanded to the entire South Texas region," Dr. Garza said.

Work ethic, vision

Last October, Dr. Garza was the keynote speaker for the Valley Honors Students Banquet in McAllen. Previous keynote speakers have included Gov. George W. Bush, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a U.S. astronaut and an opera singer. "Dr. Garza spoke about his four approaches to success in his own life unrivaled work ethic, a vision for one's future, selection of mentors along the way and a commitment to service," said Dr. Ramirez. "He discussed how he was able to overcome socioeconomic disadvantages in his life and rise to the top of his chosen profession following the four tenets of success in which he believes. The high school and college students in the room were extremely impressed by his presentation, so impressed that he received a standing ovation. I am very pleased and excited that the Health Science Center has chosen Dr. Garza for this new responsibility."

In addition to working to jump-start student futures, Dr. Garza will serve as an ambassador for all of South Texas, building bridges from the Health Science Center to the medical communities from Corpus Christi to the Valley to Laredo to Del Rio.

"As a Health Science Center, we have a lot to offer these different communities without competing with the practices of the community physicians," commented Dr. Steven A. Wartman, executive vice president for health affairs and dean of the Medical School. "We want the community physicians in South Texas to trust us with the tertiary care that may not be available in certain areas, and we look to Dr. Garza to help establish a seamless system that benefits everyone, especially the patients."

Head, neck surgery

Dr. Garza will continue his clinical practice with South Texas Plastic Surgery Associates at the Santa Rosa Northwest Medical Center. "Dr. Chet L. Nastala has been appointed as the acting chief of the division of plastic and reconstructive surgery, and he has formed the section of facial surgery within the division," Dr. Garza said. "Dr. Nastala has appointed me to serve as chief of this new section of facial plastic surgery. My practice will be focused on cosmetic and reconstructive surgery of the head and neck."

Dr. Garza, a renowned surgeon who operates on cleft lip and cleft palate patients and on many other head and neck deficits, earned his M.D. degree from the Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans and his D.D.S. degree from LSU's School of Dentistry. He trained in general surgery at the Health Science Center for two years and then completed an otolaryngology/head and neck surgery residency at LSU and plastic surgery training at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

The American Medical Association identified Dr. Garza as one of its "emerging leaders" during 2000, and invited him to attend an exclusive leadership conference with only 50 other physicians nationwide. Only three of the honorees were Texas physicians.

He is excited at the idea of influencing those who will follow in his footsteps. "I want to spend time visiting the different areas of South Texas with Dr. Ramirez and building relationships with leaders and with the young people who will be tomorrow's leaders," he said. "There is no more important investment."


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