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Celebrating the leadership, vision, tenacity, and love of community shared by the recipients of the Great Living Cincinnatian Award, presented annually by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber since 1967.
“It was an offer I couldn’t refuse,” said Victor Garcia, MD, about the opportunity to leave retirement and move to Cincinnati to begin a trauma program at Children’s Hospital. After the mother of his children, passed away at a young age, Dr. Garcia realized the fragility and uncertainty of life. “None of us know how long we have to achieve our purpose, “said Garcia. “Allison’s death helped me realize I had better get going.”
Dr. Garcia is currently a full-time pediatric surgeon at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and professor of Surgery and Pediatrics, at the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine. “I am able to help the most vulnerable,” said Garcia. “Injuries are the number one cause of death among children and we have the resources to save lives.”
Pursuing better lives and emboldened by the belief that one can achieve what the mind can conceive and believe, Dr. Garcia’s parents left extreme poverty in Puerto Rico and immigrated to New York City. Dr. Garcia’s father repeatedly told his family, “don’t believe you are less than. You are destined to make a difference. But you can only make a difference if you have an education.”
“I credit my father with making sure I didn’t take the path of so many minorities at that time,” said Garcia. The emphasis was always on education, and since we couldn’t afford college, my father guided me toward the United States Military Academy.”
This concept of working for a greater cause gained clarity and significance at West Point. “It was the crucible where individual purpose, leadership, grit and a commitment to duty, honor, country and service to nation were forged,” offered Garcia. “I learned that leaders are not born they are developed. That to achieve anything of true lasting significance required intellectual, ethical, social and physical traits to deal with an increasingly complex and broad spectrum of challenges.”
One of only five black students in his class, Dr. Garcia received a Bachelor of Science from the United States Military Academy in 1968. In 1974, he earned his Doctor of Medicine with honors from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and completed his residency training in pediatric surgery at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia under C Everett Koop MD, former Surgeon General of the United States in 1981. Dr. Garcia served 20 years in the U.S Army, retiring in 1988 as Chief of General Surgery and Pediatric Surgery Services at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
He is the author or co-author of nearly 100 publications focusing on childhood injuries, pediatric obesity, and community-based interventions to prevent childhood and adolescent injury and illness. He founded and until 2010 directed the Southwest Ohio’s only Level I Pediatric Trauma System. He also led the effort to establish the first children’s hospital-based Center for Adolescent Weight Loss Surgery and was the Center’s initial Director.
Most recently, he is focused on applying the principles of systems thinking, learning organizations, and Theory U’ to address the social determinants of the increasingly complex, interrelated and self-reinforcing health and social disparities in the urban core.
Dr. Garcia co-founded Cincinnati’s Initiative to Reduce Violence and the non-profit CoreChange. For this work, he received the National Jefferson Award for Outstanding Community Service.
He gives credit to Gail, his current wife of 21 years. “She shares my passion for community work and led me to the work of Marshall Rosenberg, who helped people exchange the information necessary to resolve conflicts peacefully.” His two daughters, as parents of his six grandchildren, have enlightened him on how to raise resilient, purpose driven, self-confident children in this era of social media.
Recipients are selected from candidates by the Cincinnati Chamber’s senior council based on the following criteria: – Community service – Business and civic attainment on a local, state and national or international level – Leadership – Awareness of the needs of others – Distinctive accomplishments that have brought favorable attention to their community, institution or organization