The longtime assistant dean for minority affairs has retired after decades of recruiting students from under-represented groups to Stanford School of Medicine.
February 3, 2020 - By Mandy Erickson
Ronald Garcia, PhD, referred to his office as “the museum.” Its walls were covered with masks from around the world, sent by students and alumni of the School of Medicine.
Given that his goal at the school since the mid-1970s was to expand the diversity of health professionals — not only ethnically but in terms of sexual orientation, race, religion, and physical and mental abilities — the display is an apt metaphor.
Garcia retired as assistant dean for minority affairs on Jan. 6, leaving a medical school filled with students who hail from as far as Kazakhstan and as near as Redwood City. When he started, the school had organizations for Latino, black and Native American students; now it also boasts groups for LGBTQ, disabled, Muslim and Asian-American students.
“By creating opportunity and supporting minority students, he has improved the education and experience of every student, faculty member and patient at Stanford,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine.
Garcia first worked with the school when he was a graduate student in psychology and was hired to be an evaluator for the physician’s assistant program, at the time a joint program with Foothill College. In 1988, he was hired as its associate director and served as director of admissions, as well as interim program director. He assumed a national leadership position in physician assistant education when he was elected president of the Association of Physician Assistant Programs.
He soon took on several other roles, all aimed at promoting diversity at the school. He began teaching a course, Ethnicity in Medicine, which became popular with premed students; he taught it every year, the last time in the spring. He applied for and received a grant to increase the number of underrepresented students at the medical school — a grant that has been renewed every year. And he launched a summer program for community college students interested in a medical career.
“I’ve been able to be a champion for things I believe in,” he said of his four decades at the school. “I’ve been grateful to be surrounded by staff and faculty in the Center of Excellence in Diversity in Medical Education who share that belief.”
He described as “humbling” his interactions with students from underprivileged backgrounds: “I have so much respect for their power to sustain their dreams. They don’t grow up in families where they’re expected to go to Stanford. Yet, they don’t give up.”
His staff at the Center of Excellence hosted a celebration of his career on Nov. 18 that was attended by over 100 faculty, staff, students, residents and community partners who came to wish him well.
Garcia’s retirement plans include fly-fishing, mushroom-hunting and rose-cultivating. He also intends to volunteer at a social service organization in Redwood City and visit a son and grandchild in Peru.
His mask collection will find a place in his Menlo Park home — a reminder of the students he’s nurtured over so many years.
“It’s been such a treat to have been in this profession for so long and to have friends all over the world,” he said.
About Stanford Medicine
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