SLU Recruits Dept. of Homeland Security's Former Chief Medical Officer

  • The former Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs and Chief Medical Officer for the Department of Homeland Security is joining the faculty of Saint Louis University's College for Public Health and Social Justice.

Alexander Garza, M.D., MPH, will become associate dean for public health practice and associate professor of epidemiology at SLU this fall. As an associate dean, he will focus on developing relationships between the College's faculty and students and practitioners in government and industry engaged in public health at the local, national and international level. Garza, who received his MPH from SLU's School of Public Health, will also teach and mentor students in the areas of emergency management, public health preparedness and epidemiology.

"I am very excited to be coming back to my childhood home of St. Louis and thrilled to be joining the outstanding faculty at Saint Louis University's College for Public Health and Social Justice," Garza said. "I especially am looking forward to bringing my experiences from my time as Assistant Secretary and Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Homeland Security to students at SLU and develop a body of knowledge in the relationships between public health, security and emergency preparedness."

Garza is internationally recognized for his expertise in emergency medicine, disaster medicine and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive terrorism. From 2009 until May 2013, Garza was the health lead for U.S. homeland security efforts, working with public health, medical and emergency management agencies, security and intelligence communities and non-governmental organizations worldwide. Presidentially appointed and confirmed by the Senate, Garza anchored the Department of Homeland Security's response to public health and terrorism threats. He managed medical and health security issues and oversaw the national health aspects of contingency planning for all chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear hazards. Garza also led the Department of Homeland Security's coordinated response for health issues to disasters including the H1N1 pandemic, Haiti earthquake, Gulf Coast oil spill, tsunami in Japan and Hurricane Sandy.

Garza served as principal advisor on bioterrorism and health to United States Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, and advised the White House National Security Staff and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, advising the president on the bioethical implications of advances in biomedicine and related areas of science and technology.

"With Dr. Garza's recruitment to the College for Public Health and Social Justice as the associate dean for public health practice, we are signaling both our commitment to public health practice and our national and international reach into the public health community," said Edwin Trevathan, M.D., MPH, dean of SLU's College for Public Health and Social Justice.

Garza is passionate about emergency medicine and public health. He became a paramedic before attending medical school at the University of Missouri and completed his residency in emergency medicine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Garza has held academic appointments in emergency medicine at Georgetown University, University of New Mexico and University of Missouri. Garza also is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Corps, where he served as a battalion surgeon and civil affairs public health chief in Iraq and Africa. He has received more than a dozen awards including the Bronze Star and the Combat Action Badge.

Garza is the author of numerous publications that have made a significant impact on the practice of emergency medical response, and was awarded the Young Investigator award by the American Heart Association for his research in improving survival to cardiac arrest. Garza is among the more than 30 new faculty recruited during the past three years to the units within SLU's College for Public Health and Social Justice. The College is the only academic unit of its kind among the nearly 250 Catholic institutions of higher education in the United States.

With a focus on finding innovative and collaborative solutions for complex global health problems, the College offers nationally recognized programs in global public health, social work, health management and health policy, epidemiology, biostatistics, environmental and occupational health, behavioral science and health education, emergency management, biosecurity and disaster preparedness, and criminology and criminal justice.

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