Dr. Arnulfo Garcia, DMSc, PA-C will present the findings of his paper, “Small Town Stroke” at the American Heart Association’s Oklahoma State Stroke Systems Advisory Council in January 2021.
Dr. Garcia has seen firsthand the differences in patient outcomes between rural and urban hospitals. He is a provider in a rural emergency room located halfway between Tulsa and Oklahoma City. “When I look at the data and compare outcomes, they compare with developing countries. My initial drive for enrolling in the DMSc program was to gain additional tools to help fight these disparities. I also want to develop and provide solutions to these problems over the next few decades, the remainder of my career,” he says.
In his early 30s, while working as a medical technologist, Dr. Garcia participated in medical mission trips to Guatemala. He realized his true vocation as a provider. “I was already in my 30s, and I knew that going back to school was going to be a huge sacrifice of time and finances. I already had a family — a wife and two daughters. However, I knew I had to fulfill my calling.”
Dr. Garcia graduated from University of Oklahoma’s PA Program in 2003. “After a year in a specialty, I began working in rural ERs. And this is my passion – rural ER medicine. I came to the realization that this was the path for me. Where I work, when a patient walks through that door, I am their provider. I have to be ready to deliver the best possible care. Because of this, it motivates me to constantly keep improving my understanding and adding to my knowledge by working part time in different specialties — cardiology, neurology, surgery — as I know this will serve me well and help me to help my patients.”
For the remainder of his career, Dr. Garcia says his goals are to fight these disparities in outcomes and also to bring awareness to their existence. “I also want to be able to provide solutions, because that’s really what is going to make a real difference in the future.” He hopes to develop protocols for providers, patients, and communities associated with critical access hospitals, and to collaborate with other hospitals to advance the protocols, with the hope of minimizing disparities with many diagnoses. “The population of these rural communities could benefit greatly from a system like this. I am committed to improving the quality of care in rural areas.”
Dr. Garcia has also served as a PA faculty member at the University of Oklahoma’s PA Program from 2016 to 2019 and was invited to be keynote speaker for their 2020 commencement ceremony. “This was a huge honor for me; I decided to tell my story. I applied to PA school and was rejected twice, and ended up graduating with honors.”
He also serves as assistant coach for the local high school cross country team. “The students think I am there to teach them how to run. But what brings me the most joy, as a human being,is to see in a young person when they realize that they actually can fulfill their goals, and they go after it! It makes me the happiest man on earth. When that switch goes on, you can see it. Whether training high school cross country runners, being a preceptor in the ER for the PA students, or teaching in the classroom, I see this time after time. I love to see them realize that they do have potential.”