GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Joe G.N. “Skip” Garcia, M.D., has been named associate vice president for research at UF Health, the University of Florida’s academic health center, and the inaugural Herbert A. Wertheim Professor of Inflammation Science, effective Jan. 5, 2023.
Garcia is a distinguished pulmonologist and critical care physician and is internationally recognized as a leading authority on the genetic basis of inflammatory lung disease, the development of novel biomarkers and therapies for critically ill patients, and examination of lung health disparities among vulnerable populations. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine.
“Dr. Garcia joins us at a pivotal moment in our history as the Southeast’s premier academic health center, and his work will help accelerate our ability to move discoveries into clinical advances that translate into improved outcomes for patients, both in Florida and around the world,” said David R. Nelson, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health. “He is a highly regarded and accomplished scientist who will join our esteemed faculty to continue to identify new treatments and therapies that truly make a difference in people’s lives.”
In his role at the University of Florida, Garcia will serve as the founding director of a dynamic new center for the study of inflammation biology — the Center for Inflammation Science and Systems Medicine. The center will focus on conducting groundbreaking research and training at the intersection of immunology, vascular biology, drug discovery and data science, facilitating and catalyzing research initiatives and training the next generation of interdisciplinary scientists to excel in translational biomedical research.
As AVP for research, Garcia will promote ways to enhance the research mission across UF Health’s health colleges and research centers and institutes.
“I’m energized by the opportunity to join the UF faculty and to partner with colleagues at such a crucial time, to support and grow the research mission and, in the coming years, to add to the stellar track record of scientific breakthroughs at UF, UF Health and UF Scripps Biomedical Research,” Garcia said. “Together I know we will accomplish much, working closely with our health science colleagues, strategic health partners and state leaders to continue to make contributions to the health of our patients and their communities.”
Science highlight: Fighting Free Radicals With Finesse
After earning his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Dallas, Dr. Garcia attained his medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, followed by an internship and residency training in internal medicine at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. He also completed fellowship training in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Albany Medical College.
He began his storied academic career as an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Texas Health Center at Tyler, followed by 10 years at the Indiana University School of Medicine as an associate professor and, subsequenty, as the Dr. Calvin H. English Professor of Medicine.
Garcia later served as the Dr. David Marine Professor of Medicine, Environmental Health Sciences and Biomedical Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and as the director of pulmonary and critical care medicine from 1998 to 2005. In May 2005, he became the Lowell T. Coggeshall Professor of Medicine and chair of the department of medicine at The University of Chicago, implementing a number of impactful translational research programs that led to large increases in the department’s research portfolio and a top 10 ranking in NIH funding.
In February 2010, he was named the vice chancellor for research and Earl M. Bane Professor of Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago, overseeing an almost $400 million research portfolio and launching a broad strategic plan that created new institutes and centers focused on precision medicine, health disparities and bioinformatics.
In February 2011, Garcia was named the first University of Illinois vice president for health affairs, going on to rebrand the organization to form the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Science System, which included a university hospital, a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital, over 60 outpatient care clinics, 12 federally qualified health centers, seven health science colleges and four regional campuses.
In 2013, Garcia was recruited by the University of Arizona to serve as the senior vice president for health sciences and the Merlin K. DuVal Endowed Professor of Medicine. In this role, he recruited three health science college deans, 10 key department chair positions and 10 new associate vice president and center directors. He guided the successful renewal of UA’s NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center grant and led the rebranding of the Arizona Health Science Center to become University of Arizona Health Sciences, and facilitated the merger with Phoenix-based Banner Health System.
Garcia’s academic initiatives at UA included establishing three new UA research/education buildings and four thematic centers of excellence in health disparities, population health and health outcomes, precision medicine and neuroscience. These efforts resulted in major acceleration in NIH funding and unprecedented Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research rankings. Garcia also initiated multi-pronged efforts to increase diversity within the five health science colleges, creating the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and fostering programs focused on creating a diverse health care workforce.
In January 2017, he pivoted to focus on his clinical and translational research and launched, as founder and CEO, an immunotherapeutics-focused biotech startup called Aqualung Therapeutics, leveraging discoveries he made while at Johns Hopkins University of a novel inflammatory mediator that is centrally involved in driving the severity of lung inflammatory conditions. Aqualung has now developed a humanized monoclonal antibody, currently in human clinical trials, that has been approved by the FDA for testing as a novel therapy for critically ill ARDS patients and for patients with lung fibrosis.
Garcia has been an impactful mentor of physician scientists as well as undergraduate, graduate, M.D. and Ph.D. students, with numerous trainees now in major academic leadership positions nationally. In 2019, he established the Joe and Elda Garcia Health Career internship program for Latino Students in southern Arizona, successfully mentoring Latino high school students interested in STEM careers, including the conduct of health-based research and facilitating their entry into top four-year universities.
Continuously funded by the NIH since 1988, Garcia currently enjoys an expansive portfolio of NIH-sponsored research and has authored or co-authored more than 600 peer-reviewed publications and over 40 book chapters. He is a past president of the Central Society for Clinical Research, a past member of the board of directors for the American Thoracic Society and a past member or chair of multiple NIH panels, committees and working groups, including the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Advisory Council. He has served as editor or associate editor for multiple scientific journals.
He is the recipient of numerous state, national and international awards and honors for his innovative contributions to medicine and for his longstanding volunteer work and community service. These include the Edward Livingston Trudeau Medal and the Distinguished Scientist Award from the American Thoracic Society, and the Diversity Award from the Association of Professors in Medicine for innovation in promoting diversity in academic medicine. In addition to the National Academy of Medicine, Garcia has been elected into a number of honorary societies, including the American Clinical and Climatological Association, the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of Academic Professors.
Garcia’s primary office and laboratory space will be situated on the UF Scripps campus in Jupiter.