Dr.  Estevan Garcia was appointed Chief Health and Welfare Officer

Dr. Estevan Garcia was appointed Chief Health and Welfare Officer

Estevan Garcia — who is currently the chief medical officer of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health — has been named Dartmouth’s inaugural chief health and wellness officer. He starts work on March 4.

The creation of the position reflects President Sian Leah Beilock’s inaugural pledge to make mental health and wellness an institutional priority. A nationwide search for the position began last summer.

“In focusing on the health and well-being of students, educators and staff – which also aligns with creating the best environment for academic excellence – finding the right leader for this role has been crucial,” says President Beilock.

“Dr. Garcia combines a broad understanding of public health with the deep experience of a lifelong clinician. He is a courageous and forthright advocate who is committed to creating a holistic, integrative approach to support the health and well-being of the entire community.”

Garcia, a specialist in pediatric emergency medicine, will report to the president and oversee Dartmouth College Health Services, the Center for Student Wellness and Employee Wellness. He will be a member of the president’s senior leadership team and serve as an advisor and spokesperson on all health issues affecting students, faculty and staff.

He will also play a key role in implementing the Commitment to Care, Dartmouth’s strategic plan for student mental health and well-being, and will also work closely with Dartmouth Health.

Garcia calls it “an honor” to be tapped to fill the inaugural position at Dartmouth.

“Especially after COVID, I have witnessed many young people in crisis. I moved into public health to try to understand more broadly how to prevent the kinds of seizures I was seeing in individual patients. What drew me to Dartmouth is the opportunity to cultivate a framework of resilience in a community of high-achieving youth, some of whom need support with mental health and behavioral concerns,” he says.

“I see this as an opportunity to have a far-reaching impact, because as students go on to become leaders in their industries and in the world, they will bring an appreciation of how resilience contributes to what it takes to be successful .”

The role of Chief Health and Wellness Officer includes faculty and support staff.

“As faculty and staff, we need to model wellness behaviors for students so they understand it’s important,” Garcia says. “My role is to advocate for the resources we need to be able to model those behaviors.”

Garcia plans to be very visible on campus. “I want to make myself available. First it’s about getting to know who the students are, what their needs are, and making sure they understand how to communicate with me. I plan to have an open door policy and organize student forums and small groups. Students can see me sitting in the cafeteria. I want to know them as individuals.”

A native of Texas, Garcia graduated from Austin College with honors in psychology and attended medical school at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He completed his residency in pediatrics and fellowship in pediatric emergency medicine at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, part of UT Southwestern Medical Center, and went on to earn a master’s in public administration from New York University and a doctorate in public health. from the City University of New York.

Garcia chose to pursue a career in medicine because of his family’s tragic experience.

“I had a sister who had leukemia as a baby and died within four months of being born. I was 13 when she got sick and we had a family pediatrician who helped us get the care we needed at Texas Children’s Hospital. I saw how caring the doctors and nurses were for my family, even when there was nothing they could do.”

He initially set out to become a pediatric hematologist/oncologist, but found himself more drawn to emergency medicine. “I was like, I like this. These are not long-term patients. I can make quick decisions that have an impact. Children are generally fine. One of the benefits of pediatrics is that often small interventions, from my perspective, can have a big impact on children’s lives.”

Among his responsibilities at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, he has served as an advisor to the Department of Mental Health’s Behavioral Health Roadmap, which provides a blueprint for expanding access to effective and equitable treatment across the state.

He previously served as chief medical officer at Cooley Dickinson Health Care, a Mass General Brigham affiliate, and at Brookdale University Hospital, Brooklyn; vice president and medical director for risk management at the Hospital Insurance Company; and interim CEO of Tewksbury Hospital in Tewksbury, Mass.

He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and has published nearly a dozen peer-reviewed papers. He has served on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s National Commission to Transform Public Health Data Systems and on the boards of the Children’s Advocacy Center in Northampton, Mass., and GLMA, the oldest and largest LGBTQ+ association and allied health professionals.

He is also president of the board of the TreeHouse Foundation, an organization that creates intergenerational communities for families with foster children. Garcia and his husband, William, have raised more than 20 children and raised three adopted children.

The search committee was chaired by Jomysha Delgado Stephen, executive vice president for strategy and special adviser to the president, and William Torrey, Raymond Sobel Professor and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Geisel School of Medicine.

“Dr. Garcia brings energy, creativity and extensive clinical and public health experience to this exciting new opportunity. I know he will have a very positive impact on life in our Dartmouth community,” says Torrey.

Committee members included Andrew Campbell, Albert Bradley 1915 Third Century Professor of Computer Science; Matthew Duncan, Geisel assistant professor of psychiatry and medical education; Mike Harrity, Haldeman Family Director of Athletics and Recreation; Anne Hudak, associate dean of student support services; Sara Lester, chief human resources officer; and Janice McCabe, associate professor of sociology and Allen House professor-in-residence.

“I am pleased to welcome Dr. Garcia to Dartmouth and grateful to the search committee for their diligent efforts to find the right person for this job,” says Beilock.

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