At a Glance
- Career History: Georgetown University School of Medicine, Research Director (2007-2009); Washington Hospital Center, Staff Physician/Director of Military Programs (2007-2009); University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Assistant Professsor of Emergency Medicine (2006-2007); University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine and Staff Physician (1999-2006)
- Birthday: September 10, 1967
- Hometown: St. Louis, Mo.
- Alma Mater: University of Missouri-Kansas City, BS, 1990; University of Missouri Columbia School of Medicine, MD, 1996; St. Louis University School of Public Health, MPH, 2003
- Spouse: Melissa Hope Garza
- Web site
Path to Power
Garza grew up as one of five brothers in a suburb of St. Louis, Mo. His mother worked nights shifts as an emergency nurse at a local hospital, and Garza has said her example inspired him to join the medical community. For college, he went across the state to University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he majored in biology and earned his paramedic certification during his senior year.
Garza spent two years as a paramedic before entering medical school at the University of Missouri-Columbia. "A combination of factors influenced my decision to become involved in EMS, including my love for the television show "Emergency!"" Garza told the Journal of Emergency Medical Services. "That was the best show ever."
Asa chief medical officer, Garza must work not just with Secretary Napolitano on policy issues, but with the Federal Emergency Management Adminstration (FEMA) and with state and local agencies to implement health responses to disasters. Garza's on-the-ground experience has exposed him to the sorts of issues these partners face. In addition, his military service has given him "a unique understanding of international medicine and how this affects global security and international relationships," he said at his confirmation hearing.
Garza's medical and consulting work keyed him into biosurveillance techniques that look at data like 911 calls to pinpoint disease outbreaks before they spread too widely.
Garza's wife, Melissa, is Sen. Claire McCaskill legislative counsel. The senator introduced Garza at his confirmation hearing. ""I remember when they met; I remember when they fell in love; I remember their wedding," said Sen. McCaskill. "I rememer the birth of all three children, the anxiety Melissa had when he was serving in Iraq...I remember all of it."
In 2004, Garza donated $250 to Jamie Metzl's unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination to a Missouri House seat. Metzl is now the executive vice president of the Asia Society, but the year before his House campaign, he worked at the Council on Foreign Relations and directed work on a report arguing that the federal government was not doing enough to support first responders in the aftermath of 9/11.
Garza also donated to Sen. John Kerry's (D-Mass.) presidential campaign in 2004, but not to his current boss', according to the Center for Responsive Politics. (His wife supported Hillary Rodham Clinton during the Democratic primary.)