David O. Garcia, PhD, FACSM, an associate professor of health promotion sciences in the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, received the inaugural Early Career Investigator Award from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD).
“It is truly humbling and an honor to receive this prestigious award,” said Dr. Garcia, who is a member of the UArizona Cancer Center. “Throughout my career I have been fortunate to be supported by incredible students, colleagues and mentors that have shared my passion in improving health equity for our community. This support also includes my wife and kids, who have been there every step of the way. This award represents the dedication, hard work and perseverance of this team of people toward achieving this goal, and I share this honor with them.”
The NIMHD’s mission is to “lead scientific research to improve minority health and reduce health disparities.” The Early Career Investigator Award is given to an NIMHD-funded researcher who has made significant contributions to the field as evidenced by innovativeness and impact of research and peer-reviewed publications.
Dr. Garcia’s research focuses on reducing obesity-related health disparities among Mexican-origin adults.
“My team is among the first to develop a gender and culturally-sensitive weight loss intervention for Hispanic males,” he said. “More recently, we have focused on examining the prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and associated risk factors in the U.S.-Mexico border region. I have been fortunate to secure multiple pilot grants to support my research agenda.”
In addition to his research commitments, Dr. Garcia is the director of Nosotros Comprometidos a Su Salud (Committed to Your Health), a program developed to foster community-engaged research collaborations, service and education to advance health equity in southern Arizona.
“This community-based effort promotes regular access to health communications and information and opportunities to participate in lifestyle interventions tailored for the Mexican-origin community,” Dr. Garcia said. “Over 1,000 participants of Mexican-origin descent have participated in our research studies in the areas of obesity and cancer prevention.”
Dr. Garcia joined the Zuckerman College of Public Health in 2013. The college “has allowed me to establish myself as an academic researcher who is purposeful in the integration of research, teaching and community outreach to maximize the impact of my work for the community,” he said. “I am grateful for my colleagues who share similar values for health justice and for the unwavering support of Dean Iman A. Hakim, MD, PhD, MPH, and the many mentors who have supported my journey.”
Dr. Garcia said losing his grandparents to preventable chronic diseases when he was very young is what inspires his research focus.
“My hope is that our work continues to help educate and provide resources for communities to ensure equitable care so future generations may have more time with loved ones.”