Garcia, currently the deputy director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, or NIDCR — a part of the National Institutes of Health — will officially begin her new job in February, when she will become the college’s seventh permanent dean.
“Dr. Garcia brings a great depth of leadership experience to all the core activities of the UF College of Dentistry and UF Health, from education to public health to research and technology transfer,” said UF President Bernie Machen. “She is the ideal choice to lead the college as UF continues its drive to rise among the nation’s top public universities.”
Garcia said, “ I am delighted and honored by the opportunity to lead the college and look forward to working with its superb faculty, staff, students and alumni in furthering the college’s tradition of excellence in all fronts — education, patient care and research.”
Garcia’s career spans 34 years in public health, clinical practice, research, teaching and administration at the local, state and national levels. As deputy director of the NIDCR, she has shared responsibility for the oversight and management of programs and functions within the institute — which includes a staff of more than 400 scientists and administrators dedicated to research, training, science policy, health education, communications and financial management.
“After a thorough national search that attracted many top-notch candidates, Dr. Garcia was recognized as the individual who could best lead the UF College of Dentistry to preeminence,” said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health. “I am confident that under her leadership, our nationally prominent College of Dentistry will gain even greater recognition by expanding the breadth and depth of our research programs and clinical practices while developing innovative and forward-looking approaches to dental education and community partnerships in oral health care.”
Garcia was chosen after a nationwide search led by chair Michael L. Good, M.D., dean of the UF College of Medicine.
“Dr. Garcia’s record of proven and effective leadership in a large and complex organization was a differentiating characteristic of her candidacy,” said Good. “She brings great insight, vision and unique perspectives to UF that will help our dental faculty and students advance their professional careers.”
A rear admiral lower half in the U.S. Public Health Service, Garcia joined the NIDCR in 1995 and has held multiple leadership roles since. She led NIDCR’s science transfer efforts, directed the Institute’s Office of Science Policy and Analysis, and served as acting NIDCR director from 2010-2011. Garcia also served as the institute’s coordinator for global health and took over as director of NIDCR’s Residency in Dental Public Health program in 2005. Since 1995, she has been a faculty adviser and mentor for more than 30 dental public health residents.
“Having spent most of my career in the public sector, I am particularly drawn to UF’s origins as a public land-grant university and its founding mission of service to the community,” said Garcia. “I hope to work with colleagues across the university and join forces with interested organizations, communities and others to achieve the common goal of improving oral health for all people through the college’s teaching, research and service missions.”
Before joining NIDCR, Garcia was a health scientist administrator at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, where she managed a portfolio of health services and primary care research. Prior to her career in the U.S. Public Health Service, she held local and state health management positions in Virginia and Ohio and practiced dentistry in Virginia.
“The Gators are fortunate,” said Martha J. Somerman, D.D.S, Ph.D., director of the NIDCR. “It has truly been a joy to work with Dr. Garcia. She’s been indispensable in helping me guide the institute, and I know her strategic thinking and exceptional leadership skills will serve her well in academia. We’ll miss her, but we know she’ll go on to accomplish great things for the University of Florida.”
Garcia received a doctorate in dental surgery in 1980 from Virginia Commonwealth University and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Michigan in 1988. She subsequently completed a residency in dental public health at the University of Michigan and a fellowship in primary care policy from the U.S. Public Health Service.
While pursuing her master’s, Garcia was a lecturer and adjunct assistant professor in the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. She later served as an adjunct assistant professor in the College of Dentistry at The Ohio State University.
The recipient of numerous honors and awards, Garcia has received the NIH Director’s Award for Mentoring, the American Association for Dental Research’s Jack Hein Public Service Award, and the U.S. Public Health Service Jack D. Robertson Award for outstanding long-term dedication and service to improve the oral health of the nation.
A fellow of the American College of Dentists, Garcia is a diplomate of the American Board of Dental Public Health, one of the nine specialties recognized by the American Dental Association, and is an active member of the American Dental Education Association, the International Association for Dental Research and the American Dental Association.
“The University of Florida, with its Health Science Center, is a powerhouse of talent, innovation and collaboration,” Garcia said. “It is a privilege to be joining such an exceptional team and supporting the visionary efforts of the entire university and its leaders.”