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Highlighting the Heroes: St. George's University Grad Up for $25K Award

Our H.E.R.O. Award -Honoring Excellent Resident Observations – was launched to highlight the personal sacrifices and educational commitment during a medical resident’s professional adult life.  We realize, considering the fast moving changes in healthcare,  how courageous medical residents are to embark upon a career in medicine with such an uncertain future.  This award is our way of recognizing that courage.

We wanted to take a moment to introduce you to our nominees individually:

Christine Garcia

Dr. Christine Ann Garcia

Stony Brook University. Stony Brook, NY – Port Jefferson, NY
Christine received her Master in Public Health in 2005 and began her career with the County of San Diego Health & Human Services in California. Confronted with complex health issues, such as improving access to health care and controlling infectious disease, Christine gained first-hand experience helping communities in San Diego with limited resources and funding. Because Christine did not attend medical school immediately after college and, instead, took several years to explore public health, work with a diverse group of specialists focused on improving public health, and teach English to elementary school students in Italy, Christine’s decision to attend medical school was a focused, mature, and memorable decision. Miles away from anyone or anything that Christine knew, and several years older than the “traditional” medical student, attending medical school at St. George’s University in Grenada, West Indies for Christine often felt like participating on the reality show, “Survivor.” Braving unknown territories and seeking allies amongst strangers, Christine found strength in knowing that she was following a circuitous route to her childhood dreams of becoming a doctor. In time, Christine grew accustomed to living on the island. It became second nature to drive on the opposite side of the road, brake for crossing goats, and avoid crab holes in the ground while walking home. She met extraordinary future physicians along the way and developed friendships with similar strong-minded individuals who sacrificed first world luxuries to pursue dreams of becoming doctors. Christine found life-long friends and became the “mom” of her surrogate family. She plucked the feathers out of a turkey to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner, Caribbean-style and tended to friends’ injuries from intramural sports. Medical school in the Caribbean was one of the greatest experiences in her life for the amazing academic training she received, but also for the learning lessons that Christine gained as a “Survivor” on the Caribbean island. Stony Brook Medicine is “The Right Fit” for Christine because it is a dynamic, forward thinking program in an ever-changing medical education environment. It is at the forefront of improving medical education, focusing on high value, cost-effective care, clinical research and quality improvement. Christine’s program director and associate PDs are always open to new ideas and changes, making this program adaptable and personable to fit each residents’ needs. With strong support from the dean and chair of medicine, the program is proactive and progressive and continually improving. With fellowships in cardiology, GI, nephrology, pulmonary/critical care, hematology/oncology, and ID, residents have the option to rotate and participate in procedures from day 1. Residents are also able to serve on hospital-wide committees and help develop curriculum and program changes. Christine has received so much support from her colleagues with her research and publication that she was able to author several peer reviewed papers and poster presentations including: Syncope as Initial Presentation of Kommerell’s Diverticulum. Cohen R, Garcia CA, Loarte P, Diaz L, Mirror B. International Journal of Angiology 2012. 21(2):111-116 Atrial Myxomas: A Case Presentation and Review. Cohen R, Singh G, Mena D, Mirrer B, Garcia CA. Journal of Cardiology Research 2012;3(1):41-44. Electrocardiogram Manifestations in Hyperkalemia. Cohen R, Ramos R, Garcia CA , Mehmood S, Park Y, Divittis A, Mirrer B. World Journal of Cardiovascular Disease 2012;2:57-63. Case Review: Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura. Cohen R, Garcia CA, Mena D, Castellanos M, Wu L. Journal of Medical Cases 2012; 3(2): 130-134. Cavernous Transformation of Portal Vein: A Case Report. Cohen R, Ramos R, Shazad S, Park Y, Garcia CA. Journal of Clinical Medicine Research 2012; 4(1): 81-84. Heparin-Induced Thrombocytopenia: A Case Presentation and Review. Cohen R, Castellano M, Garcia CA. Journal of Clinical Medicine Research 2012; 4(1):68-72. Measles Outbreak in a Highly Vaccinated Population, San Diego, 2008: Role of the Intentionally Undervaccinated. Sugerman DE, Barskey AE, Delea MG, Ortega-Sanchez IR, Bi D, Ralston KJ, Rota PA, Waters-Montijo K, LeBaron CW. Pediatrics 2010. 125(4):747-755. Stony Brook is also “The Right Fit” because of the amazing residents. Residency is tough but having great, supportive people to share your troubles seems to lighten the load. Residents become surrogate family, as you spend holidays together. During Hurricane Sandy and the numerous other hurricanes, many residents huddled together at home or in the hospital to brave the storms. They often get together at the end of rotations for team dinners and happy hours. They have also organized groups for volunteering in the community as medical teams at the marathon or at a soup kitchen. While the program itself is structured so well, the strength lies within its strong, capable residents. Christine’s path to medicine has been a long and winding road with rough terrain and detours. Her decision to become a doctor was not triggered by one incident. Her humble beginnings as a child surgeon involved repairing detached limbs and performing “cataract surgery” on Monkey-Key, her most beloved stuffed animal. During high school Christine started working in hospice care, providing comfort and happiness to people at the end of their lives. That experience gave her a new perspective on medicine. During college, she worked part-time as an emergency room technician in a Chicago hospital and was exposed to patients who lacked the resources for preventative medical care. Christine found herself questioning whether becoming a physician really was the right path for her, and she soon concluded that it was not. Instead, Christine headed to graduate school and completed a Master’s degree in public health. Christine then set off on a journey to improve people’s lives through health education and prevention. Along the way, however, Christine became convinced that she could make a greater impact on the public’s health by combining her education and experiences with a degree in medicine. Christine resolved to go to medical school after all. After three solid years working in public health, Christine moved into a small studio apartment in San Diego and studied every night after work to prepare for the MCAT. Christine abandoned a successful career in public health, a comfortable salary, and relaxed lifestyle, to attempt medical school as a second-career student. Studying basic sciences after 5 years away from college was not like riding a bike. Christine was out of practice and had much relearning to do. Finally, after enduring several interviews and waitlists, Christine accepted a spot at St. George’s University in Grenada, in the West Indies. In hindsight, medical school seems to have flown by, even though the first 2 years were not without pain and suffering. It was emotionally and physically draining at times. Living thousands of miles from her family and close friends during the most stressful experience of her life was rough and came with great sacrifice. Christine completed core clerkships (psychiatry, internal medicine, surgery, obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics) at 4 different hospitals in Brooklyn. Most students at US medical schools do all of their cores at 1 clinical center, and initially she was not happy to be floating between different hospitals. However, Christine gradually recognized this as an advantage, as she was able to meet great people in each institution. Christine began research at one institution while simultaneously completing rotations at another. In her fourth year, Christine arranged her electives so she could go outside that network and broaden her knowledge and experience. In July 2012, she started residency at Stony Brook University Hospital. Vote for Christine here. If you know a resident that deserves to be recognized, please nominate your candidate here.