Dr. Nicholas Garcia, a second-year General Surgery resident at Kendall Regional Medical Center in Miami, Florida, is proud to be one of the first UMHS graduates to land a General Surgery residency. He was first drawn to the state-of-the-art facilities at the UMHS St. Kitts campus during a visit. Because a couple years had passed since receiving his undergraduate degree and he had not participated in academic classwork for a while, Dr. Garcia was initially admitted to UMHS through the Accelerated Review Program (ARP). While at first he was a bit disappointed by starting as an ARP student, he realized that the program helped prepare him for the success he later found in medical school and in successfully matching after applying for residencies.
One unexpected perk of studying at UMHS was meeting, on the first day of orientation, the woman who would later become his wife. “Throughout my years there and in clinical rotations, she pushed me and I pushed her when days got rough. I was doing what I loved, with someone I loved, I couldn’t ask for more,” he says.
Dr. Garcia took time from his busy schedule to speak to the UMHS Endeavour about his medical education at UMHS, advice for medical students and the Match process, his thoughts on Surgery as a specialty, and more.
UMHS Endeavour: Tell us a little about yourself and where you are originally from.
Dr. Nicholas Garcia: Currently a second year General Surgery resident at Kendall Regional Medical Center in Miami, FL. I’m a first generation Cuban-American, born and raised in Miami, Florida. The few hours I’m not at work, I enjoy all sorts of water sports, cycling, brewing beer, and traveling.
Why did you decide to go to UMHS?
When accepted, I had the unique opportunity to visit the campus with my dad. We visited the school on a normal academic day, participated in a tour, and ate lunch with the student body. Immediately, we were impressed with the facilities. Being a new school, the campus and facilities were all state of the art. Technology was all cutting edge, lecture halls with multiple screens, impressive simulation lab, and large cadaver lab with brand new equipment- comparable and in many cases superior to many American schools I had visited. This was all pleasantly surprising, especially in the setting of the small, sleepy island of St. Kitts.
Along with this, I found the overall population of students very unique. Many different backgrounds and stories- but one common theme, hunger. They were hungry. There was a unique drive in them to succeed, no matter the story, obstacle, or unusual circumstance, they were determined. I liked this. You could sense they understood the valuable opportunity they were granted to study medicine, and they weren’t going to squander it. It seemed like an environment not only conducive to learning, but where I would meet people with my same drive, possible lifelong friendships; and looking back, I couldn’t have been more right.
You started off as an ARP student, right? Can you tell us how that helped you?
Yes, I started in September of 2010 as an ARP student. I was accepted into the ARP program, and to be honest, I was less than thrilled. I did not want to have to go through an extra semester, so I appealed the decision. The appeal was denied, but the reasoning was explained. I was two years out of graduation from University of Florida, and I hadn’t participated in any academic classwork since. The program wanted me to ease back into school work, since it had been two years. I grudgingly accepted this, as I knew they were right, and it would only help me. Looking back, I definitely benefited from the Accelerated Review Program. It was a great, low- stress way to get back into the swing of things, accommodate to island life, and develop a routine. One of the biggest perks was the personal time with professors. With a much smaller class (seven students that semester), many of them got to know me on a personal level. This helped me later when I eventually took the full course, as I already knew the professors, they knew me, my weaknesses and strengths–really personalizing my education.
You’re one of the first UMHS graduates to get a Surgery residency. How does this make you feel?
Thankful. Like most medical students can attest, it has not been easy staying the course on the winding road and unexpected obstacles that have come our way. I’m thankful for the support of professors, my classmates and closest friends, family, and of course my wife. I’m also excited for current and future UMHS students, and the growing opportunities they have in surgical specialties.
Is there anything in particular that interests you about Surgery as a specialty?
I’ve always been drawn to the artistic aspect of surgery. You have a certain amount of freedom to not only directly make broken things function properly, but also look good. It’s rapid decisions, problem solving, and art rolled into a science. Can’t beat it.
You met your wife at UMHS, correct? Anything you’d like to share with us?
Yes. I clearly remember first day of orientation, spotting her in the crowd of students. She was a student nurse on her first day, and I was a medical student on my first day. We spoke later that evening while out on The Strip, and since then, we were inseparable. We were somehow family before we even knew it, and in her I found home. Throughout my years there and in clinical rotations, she pushed me and I pushed her when days got rough. I was doing what I loved, with someone I loved-I couldn’t ask for more.
What advice do you have for current UMHS students, and medical students in general, about the Match process?
Network. The Match process can be very overwhelming and impersonal. Thousands of applicants apply for only a handful of spots in each program. Networking is key. Rotate at programs in which you’d plan on applying. Be the best hardest working person on your team, arrive before the residents, and leave after. This is your audition for a position. Leave an impression they won’t forget.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that we have not covered?
Medical school truly flies by. Stay focused and determined, don’t lose sight of your goal endpoint, because before you know it, you’ll be there–ready or not.
Built in the tradition of the best U.S. universities, the University of Medicine and Health Sciences focuses on individualized student attention, small class sizes and recruiting high-quality faculty. For these reasons, UMHS is quickly becoming the school of choice among Caribbean medical schools.