From Dropout to Dr.

From Dropout to Dr.

Hector A. Garcia’s journey to become a professor, researcher and author did not follow a traditional path. He was a high school dropout who described his life as “bleak or boring” until his intellectual curiosity drove him to pursue a higher education at UTEP. 

As he started a new academic journey, he was inspired by the cartoneros he would see near campus – hard-working people who collected discarded cardboard boxes and took them across the border to recycle. 

He recalled one determined cartonero who used a bicycle built for carrying stacks of material. 

“I’d see him every day in his straw hat and guaraches (sandals) carrying these impossible loads of flattened cardboard on his bike up and down Mesa, which UTEP alumni know is all hills. 

“To me, this man was a warrior, and I admired him. His image called into sharp relief the privilege I had simply by being born on this side of the river. And I realized that no matter how hard he worked, he would never have the same opportunities as I did, and that I simply couldn’t squander what I had.” 

Garcia pushed forward, earning straight A’s and winning scholarships that helped pay for his education through graduate school. 

Now as a psychologist, he serves others. 

Garcia, Psy.D., who graduated from UTEP in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and a clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He has published extensively on the treatment of PTSD in combat veterans, masculine identity in the aftermath of war, stress and rank in organizations, and the interplay between religious practice and psychopathology. 

In fall 2015, he took part in a special TED Talks series on Broadway, where he discussed the science behind the best PTSD treatments for combat veterans. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a series of global conferences and talks under the slogan “Ideas Worth Spreading.” 

Garcia said he was honored to be part of TED’s mission to help humanity by sharing information with people across the world. 

“More people need to know how much we can do now to help PTSD sufferers recover,” he said. -Leonard Martinez

Pictured above: Hector Garcia speaks at “TED Talks Live-War and Peace” in November 2015 at The Town Hall in New York City. PHOTO COURTESY OF RYAN LASH/TED

And I realized that no matter how hard he worked, he would never have the same opportunities as I did, and that I simply couldn’ t squander what I had.”
— Hector A. Garcia ’99