Joe G.N. Garcia appointed chairman of medicine at University of Chicago

Joe G.N. Garcia appointed chairman of medicine at the University of Chicago

May 1, 2005

Joe G.N. "Skip" Garcia, MD--a leading authority on lung biology and disease; the genetics, prevention, and treatment of pulmonary edema; and the molecular biology of blood vessels--has been appointed the Lowell T. Coggeshall Professor and chairman of the department of medicine, the largest department at the University of Chicago, effective May 1, 2005.

Garcia, 50, comes to the University of Chicago from Johns Hopkins University where he was the David Marine Professor and director of pulmonary and critical care in the department of medicine. He was also a professor in the departments of biomedical engineering and environmental health sciences in the Bloomberg School of Public Health. He also directed the occupational lung center at Hopkins, as well as centers for basic and translational research in the department of medicine, and for translational respiratory medicine.

"We are genuinely excited about bringing in Skip Garcia as chairman of medicine," said James Madara, MD, Dean of the Pritzker School of Medicine and the Biological Sciences Division and Vice President for the Medical Center at the University of Chicago.  "He is not only a remarkably accomplished scholar with proven leadership ability and a first-rate physician, but his approach to science and medicine has always been one of crossing boundaries. He pulls different disciplines together to work on related problems. He translates basic bench science into the clinic. This is exactly the kind of innovative and imaginative work the University of Chicago has a reputation for and that we try to pass on to our students."

"I've been tremendously impressed by the quality and the enthusiasm of the department's faculty," said Garcia. "It's quite an honor to take on a leadership role here. I think Chicago and Hopkins, more than any place else I know, have embraced the notion of combining research and patient care. My goal is to encourage that passion for translational research and to build systems within this department that can make it even more prevalent."

Garcia is bringing most of his research team, including several senior and junior faculty and senior research associates, as well as about a dozen post-doctoral students and technicians, with him to Chicago. He also brings considerable federal funding, including a 10-year National Institutes of Health-funded program project grant to study, "Cytoskeletal regulation of lung endothelial pathobiology," and part of a five-year NIH-funded Specialized Center of Clinically Oriented Research that will study "Molecular approaches to ventilator-associated lung injury." The two grants total more than $30 million.

Garcia's research focuses on a phenomenon called vascular leak, or "why blood vessels get leaky."  In vascular leak, blood cells and fluid escapes from the small vessels causing edema in the surrounding tissues, especially the lungs. This often occurs after an acute injury or infection, during chronic inflammation, or in response to the stresses of mechanical ventilation. It causes flooding of the lungs, often leading to death, and can produce lasting organ damage. Garcia's studies of the basic biology of this process have led to new ways to prevent vascular leak, reduce swelling, inhibit tissue damage, and restore the integrity of vessel walls. Several of these approaches have been patented.

Born in El Paso, Texas, Garcia earned his BS in biology from the University of Dallas in 1976, and his MD from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in 1980. He did his residency at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and a fellowship in pulmonary diseases at Albany Medical College. He joined the faculty of the University of Texas Health Center in 1985 and moved to the Indiana University School of Medicine in 1988, where he was named the Dr. Calvin H. English Professor of Medicine in 1995. He joined the Hopkins faculty in 1998.

Garcia has authored or co-authored more than 250 peer-reviewed publications and 25 book chapters. He serves on the editorial boards of six scientific journals, is co-editor in chief for the journal Microvascular Research, associate editor of the American Journal of Respiratory Cell & Molecular Biology and the Journal of Stem Cell Research, and was managing editor-in-chief for Current Opinion in European Medicine, 2002-2004. He is a past president of the Central Society for Clinical Research, a member of the board of directors for the American Thoracic Society and a member or chairman of several NIH committees.

He has received many awards, including the American Thoracic Society Distinguished Scientist Award, the Henry F. Christian Award for Meritorious Research from the American Federation of Medical Research, the Otis R. Bowen Award for Community Service from the Indianapolis Medical Society, and the David M. Levine Excellence in Mentoring Award from the Hopkins Department of Medicine.

Garcia, who is fluent in Spanish, has also been a student advocate and an active supporter of minority medical and science students. He nurtured more than 20 under-represented minority students at Hopkins, guiding then into MD and PhD programs, and received NIH funding to train minorities.

He replaces Harvey Golomb, MD, a nationally recognized cancer specialist who served as chairman of medicine from 1998 to 2005. Golomb, 62, has been appointed dean of clinical affairs for the Pritzker School of Medicine and Division of the Biological Sciences.