The photos and mementos that fill Dr. Jaime R. Garzas office are a remarkable indication of a life well lived. As a young boy raised by a working class family in San Antonio, Garza never dreamed that he would cultivate professional and personal relationships with and achieve the heights of the likes of Hall of Fame athletes, legendary statesmen and renowned physicians.
Despite the star power, perhaps the most impressive features in his office are the family pictures. He and his lovely wife have captured beautiful memories with their four children throughout their lives, as evidenced by the gleaming smiles around the room. To talk to Dr. Garza about his family is to see him beam with pride as only a hardworking father can. The look of pride becomes a look of determination when the conversation turns toward his professional career.
From a young age, Garza knew that he wanted to be a doctor, but the road to becoming a physician wasnt a direct road. An outstanding high school football player, he earned the opportunity to attend Tulane University in New Orleans on a football scholarship. For a young Jaime Garza, living far from home while adjusting to the rigor of academics and college football was a challenge. But his passion for excellence always drove him to continually strive for the golden standard. This regimen helped him adapt and excel through undergraduate school, both on and off the football field. He earned a degree in political science, was inducted into the schools Athletic Hall of Fame after breaking nearly every football receiving record, and performed so well that he received offers to play professionally in the NFL. After stints with the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints, he discovered that professional football wasnt the route for him, and he opted to return to school to pursue his dream of being a doctor.
Good Enough Isnt. Get It Done.
Garza was accepted into the Louisiana State University Dental School, and while earning his dental degree, he had the opportunity to oversee a reconstructive surgery on a babys cleft lip. As he observed the operation, he felt as if he was struck by lightning. It was like falling in love for the first time. I knew that this was exactly what I wanted to do. I had to do this, Garza recalled. To me, this was the golden standard of the field that I wanted to belong toacademic plastic surgery.
Determined to begin the pursuit of his new dream immediately, Garza met with his anatomy professor to advise him on leaving dental school to pursue plastic surgery. His professor strongly encouraged him to finish his road to dentistry and advised that if his passion for plastic surgery still lingered afterwards, he could apply to medical school and have both degrees.
Realizing that it would take another 11 years of school and residency to have the opportunity to repair a babys cleft lip, Garza was 100 percent committed to dedicating the effort and time to reach his goal. He never lost his passion. He completed his dental degree in 1983 and was a practicing dentist while in medical school at LSU. Fueled by the desire to achieve his goal, he received his medical degree four years later and was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society, one of the highest honors a medical student can receive.
Following medical school, Dr. Garza trained under some of the countrys best surgeons during a head and neck cancer fellowship at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. He excelled in his first residency at the LSU School of Medicine in head and neck surgery and completed a second residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in plastic and reconstructive surgery. Dr. Garza recalls joining one of the most challenging medical programs in the country at the University of Pittsburgh. The chairman of the program had a motto that has stayed with Garza to this day: Good Enough Isnt. Get It Done. It was here that Dr. Garzas surgical skills were fine-tuned. The rigorous residency brought out the best in him through hard work and the highest of standards. Good enough isnt. This was the gold standard that hed been working toward throughout his life.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, although recruited by some of the top academic medical schools in the country after graduation, Dr. Garza accepted an offer in 1994 to return home to San Antonio and start a plastic and reconstructive surgery program at the University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHSC). He saw it as an opportunity to build something from nothing. The program has blossomed into a notable and nationally recognized resource for those that share his passion. He currently serves the UTHSC-SA as Clinical Professor in the Department of Surgery and as the Assistant Dean for South Texas Community Affairs.
Dr. Garzas involvement in academia extends beyond his hometown of San Antonio. He remains active in Louisiana at his alma maters and is currently in his second term as the Chairman of the Board of Regents for the Texas State University System. Hes proud of the innovative work that the system is doing in increasing the number of degrees awarded and in increasing the rate of graduates employed after graduation. Hes passionate about first-generation college students and proud to say that the Texas State University System graduates more first-generation students than any other institution of higher education in the state. A humbled Dr. Garza will serve as the Chairman through 2016. Paving the unconventional path to success, Dr. Garza wants to share his experiences with a younger generation and ensure their access to higher education.
Dr. Garza has spent his life finding ways to help others believe in their potential and fueling his drive to also better himself. He learned very early on what it means to be a leader and continues to challenge himself to break barriers and reach higher goals professionally. Throughout his career, Dr. Garza has been mindful of ways he can contribute civically. In 1996, he joined and supported former Representative Leticia Van de Putte and Senator Judith Zaffirrini in passing Senate Bill 217, which mandated that insurance companies pay for reconstructive breast surgery after traumatic life experiences such as cancer. He recognizes the value of aesthetics, especially during reconstruction, which is what fueled him to pursue a career in plastic surgery.
To me, this was the golden standard of the field that I wanted to belong toacademic plastic surgery.
Today, Dr. Garza owns a comprehensive Academic Plastic Surgery group that provides services including aesthetic surgical procedures, non-surgical procedures, early skin cancer treatment and facial reconstructive surgeries. It is important to him that he educates others in the business of medicine, which he feels is lacking at the medical school level, so he designed his practice to be academic based. In addition to caring for patients carefully and discreetly, all physicians in his office teach at local colleges and universities. He has built his business to become a power practice that impacts the community in many ways.
Currently, Dr. Garza is one of a handful of triple board-certified plastic surgeons in the nation. He is a successful businessman, family man, and esteemed surgeon and academic. He reflects, The road to success will have its bumps along the way, but its about perfection and practice. In football, when you drop a pass, you get reprimanded, you learn from it and you try again. The minute you start sitting back and being content, youve got a problem. Good enough isnt. Get it done.