Medicine 'a calling' for new vice chancellor for research

UIC News
March 10, 2010

Joe G. N. “Skip” Garcia found his passion for medicine as a youth, working alongside migrant farm workers in California.
“I felt like there was a calling for me to do medicine to help underserved populations,” he said. “I’ve known I wanted to do medicine since I was 11 or 12 years old.”
A physician-scientist, Garcia has dedicated his career to doing just that. As UIC’s new vice chancellor for research, he’s found a role that matches his research interests with the mission of the university.
“I’m very interested in figuring out better ways to take care of medically underserved patients,” Garcia said.
“The U of I at Chicago has a long understanding and a very deep commitment to taking care of the people in the community that surrounds it.
“There are opportunities for leveraging that commitment to increase the research productivity and the quality and stature of the institution. It’s just a good fit.”
Garcia officially began his tenure at UIC Feb. 1, after four-and-a-half years as a professor and chair of medicine at the University of Chicago.
Before joining U of C, Garcia was chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins University, where he also held an endowed chair in medicine and faculty appointments in environmental health sciences and biomedical engineering.
Garcia, who joined UIC Feb. 1, in his lab in the College of Medicine Research Building. "It's just a good fit," he says of his new position.
Garcia’s first few weeks on campus have been a whirlwind. He’s met campus leaders and researchers and attended research day events at the colleges of Pharmacy and Dentistry.
“This is an extremely collegial campus,” Garcia said. “I’ve been very impressed by how welcoming everyone has been and how talented the faculty are in gathering research grants.”
He’s especially impressed with the $61.6 million in stimulus funding that UIC researchers have received for various projects through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed by President Barack Obama in February 2009.
“That’s definitely a reflection of how talented they are,” Garcia said. “These funds are scattered across campus and span a very interesting spectrum of research.”
As chairman of the department of medicine at University of Chicago, Garcia brought in nearly $80 million in funding and improved the university’s National Institutes of Health ranking from No. 25 to No. 12.
“To have any success in research, you have to have talented faculty,” Garcia said. “I had talented faculty doing research at U of C and I think there’s definitely an abundance of talented faculty here at UIC.”
It’s Garcia’s goal for UIC to become one of the top urban public universities in research. Based on 2008 data, UIC’s national ranking is No. 52 among all universities in federally funded research.
To boost UIC’s research ranking, Garcia wants to enhance training opportunities for young investigators and increase faculty collaborations across campus.
“There are a lot of opportunities for bringing the east and west campuses together,” he said. “We have a lot of expertise in areas ranging from energy, engineering, social sciences, all the way to biomedical research.
“UIC has a very diverse faculty and staff and having the ability to care for different ethnic and racial backgrounds is an asset when you think about
Garcia also hopes to improve UIC’s research services by making it easier for investigators to submit grants and follow them through the sub
“As a researcher, I understand the pain and anguish in trying to submit grants, find out their status, getting contracts approved,” he said. “I want to help create an environment that
Garcia will also teach as the Earl Banes Professor of Medicine and see patients in the outpatient clinics.
He will continue his research, which focuses on finding new therapies to treat lung disease and the genetics of lung inflammation.
Garcia said he has an open-door policy and looks forward to talking with other investigators.
“I’m very much a people person — I love to have face-to-face meetings and hear about research,” he said. “I have a curiosity about all types of research.”
lives in downtown Chicago with his wife, Sue. They have four children and a grandson.
Their youngest son, Alex, is a second-year grad student in pharmacology in the College of Medicine.
ng in areas that are very similar to mine, so we have a lot to talk about,” Garcia said. “It’s very cool.”
In his spare time, Garcia enjoys playing golf, rooting for the Chicago Bulls, White Sox and Bears, and traveling.
co and South America are great,” he said. “Any place that’s warm during the Chicago winter is good.”
He’s been known as “Skip” since his parents gave him the nickname when he was a child.
“I’m from a long line of Joes,” he said. “I needed a nickname, and the best they could come up with was Skip.”
Joe G. N. “Skip” Garcia: “I want to help create an environment that will allow us to attract and train some of the best minds in research.”
Joe G. N. “Skip” Garcia meets staff and administrators at a Feb. 23 reception. “I’m very much a people person — I love to have face-to-face meetings and hear about research,” he says.

Joe G. N. “Skip” Garcia, MD


  • BS biology, University of Dallas, Irving

  • MD, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School

  • Internship and residency, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

  • Fellowship in pulmonary diseases, Albany Medical College

Professional highlights

  • University of Texas Health Center at Tyler, 1985-1988: assistant professor of medicine, director of occupational medicine

  • Indiana University School of Medicine, 1988-1998: professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics; Dr. Calvin H. English Professor of Medicine; director, occupational lung center

  • Johns Hopkins University, 1998-2005: Dr. David Marine Professor of Medicine; professor of environmental health sciences; professor of biomedical engineering; director, pulmonary and critical care medicine; director, occupational lung center; director, Center for Translational Respiratory Medicine

  • University of Chicago, 2005-2009: Dr. Lowell T. Coggeshall Professor of Medicine; chairman of medicine; interim chief of cardiology; interim chief of geriatrics and palliative medicine