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Dr. Catalina Esperanza Garcia

Dr. Catalina Esperanza Garcia grew-up in el Segundo Barrio, one of El Paso’s oldest and poorest neighborhoods. While her family didn’t have much, Catalina recalls that there was always the belief that through education and hard work anything could be achieved. More than anything, she remembers being encouraged by her parents to pursue her dreams through education.

“I believe my mother wanted to be a doctor, but that was out of the question in those days. So I guess she passed that dream on to me!” Catalina remembers always wanting to become a doctor. Her family was not wealthy, but had been hard-working people of the merchant class. Her great uncle had been a physician in Mexico, and with her mother’s dreams, she knew early-on what career path she would follow. “In sports they tell you to imagine making the perfect shot, well for me the perfect shot was walking down the hospital corridor, dressed as a physician in a white coat with a stethoscope. That was my perfect shot. I had that on my mind at all times during my academic career.”

Dr. Garcia obtained her bachelor’s degree in biology from Texas Western College, now UTEP, in 1961. In 1969 she realized her dream of becoming a doctor, becoming the second Latina to graduate from UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas where she has lived and worked as an anesthesiologist for over 50 years.

“As an anesthesiologist, I truly enjoy being part of a team that is working together and focused on one thing - helping patients.”

Dr. Garcia has been an actively involved in civic affairs, with a strong desire to help young Hispanic women succeed. “One of the things I noticed during my residency is that there were not enough Latino physicians. Yet, we can see that there is a growing Latino population in the state. It befits everyone to contribute to educating physicians that are culturally competent.”

In 2015, she established the Dr. Catalina E. Garcia Student Enhancement Endowment, which supports cultural immersion activities for students in the UTEP’s Medical Profession’s Institute (MPI). Her giving made possible for MPI students to travel to the Dominican Republic to research the clinical practices in the rural province of Santiago.

“It really broadens your mind when you work in another country and see how other people live. I believe that it helps make an empathetic connection with the patients to understand what they are going through; those experiences provide important lessons on how to interact as helpers and physicians to other cultures, so that they can learn about us and we can learn about them.”

Dr. Garcia hopes to give back to UTEP students for generations to come. She has made a provision in her will to make additional gifts to UTEP. “My dream is for students to have the opportunities to become more knowledgeable about dealing with different peoples. My hopes are for them to become culturally literate and that they grow and learn from people who are different from themselves. It makes it much easier to care for others who are different culturally to respect their culture.”

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