Antonio Garcia

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Antonio had to boost his GPA, retake the MCAT exam, and reapply to medical school, but he was motivated by the lack of primary care physicians and health care disparities in his community.

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Antonio Garcia Headshot

Undergrad: University of California, Irvine, 2013
Major: Biological Sciences

Medical School: University of California, Riverside School of Medicine, 2020
Residency / Specialty: Family Medicine

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As a child I wanted to be a boxer. Growing up I would box with my dad, uncles, cousins, brothers, and family friends in our garage. Eight of my brothers and one of my sisters have boxed. Two of my brothers are currently professional boxers. I thought that was what I was going to do until I was coaxed into participating in a college prep program in junior high and ended up in college at UC Irvine.

What led to your interest in medicine?

I’ve always been interested in medicine because I wanted to know more about my body. I thought it was weird that it was my body, and yet I did not know anything about it. Like why do I need to breathe when I’m running? It’s so annoying.

Many years later, I volunteered as a Diabetes Health Coach at a county clinic near where I lived in Riverside and I noticed that there was a severe lack of primary care physicians. I would talk to patients who were frustrated because they had to wait months for an appointment. Some would go to Mexico instead of waiting or would not see a physician at all. They also had to call a phone line that was always busy to schedule appointments. This really cemented my interest in medicine. I wanted to help address the primary care physician shortage, health care disparities, and learn more about medicine.

Was there one person who stands above the others as your inspiration to go to medical school?

My dad, but my mom is also amazing! She was always there for me, but my dad always went out of his way to comfort me.

After he lost his construction job during the financial crisis of 2008, my family moved from Anaheim to Riverside and I was forced to move into my aunt’s garage as it was closer to UC Irvine. I was struggling at school and hated public transportation. I had a hard time studying on the bus during my two plus hour commutes. I would miss my second bus by a few seconds and miss quizzes or show up thirty minutes late to an examination after sprinting across campus. Knowing this, my dad would make time to pick me up from school after work. He would drive all the way from Riverside to Irvine and then drop me off where I was staying in Anaheim. This meant a lot to me. He was also there for me when I had to retake the MCAT, he was there to comfort me through my second year of medical school when I thought I failed a block, and he was most recently there to comfort me after I took the Step 1 exam.

Did you have any fears going into medical school?

I feared not being smart enough. High school was easy for me, but when I started college I quickly learned that it was going to take a lot more effort to succeed. I was scared because in undergrad I was already putting in 100%, and I was told that medical school was much more difficult. It’s true. Medical school is more challenging. I think the biggest difference for me was that I wasn’t restricted to a library with limited hours on Saturday and Sunday. This used to limit how much studying I could do on the weekends. I didn’t have a desk at home, so I would study kneeling down using my bed for support, but I could only be on my knees for a few hours. At medical school, with 24/7 access to a desk and a decent chair I can study all day.

What made your medical school the right fit for you?

UC Riverside School of Medicine was the right fit for me because the school was created to address the primary care and specialist physician shortage in Riverside and neighboring counties. Since my family moved to Riverside and, it became my home, I saw the physician shortage. I wanted to help address this issue in my community. I wanted to meet other future community leaders to work together to resolve the physician shortage and also to address other health care disparities in our community. At the time, before I decided to focus specifically on medicine, I also wanted to get a master’s in Public Policy. UCR SOM was one of only four medical schools in the nation at the time that offered a dual MD/MPP program.

Did you have to change any of your study habits?

The biggest change I had to make was going from printed notes to using a laptop to take notes. In college I would print everything out, but I couldn’t do that in medical school. Ink was too expensive, and I couldn’t carry all of my notes with me. I was getting shoulder pains from my backpack. So, I finally starting using a laptop instead to do everything electronically. It took some time getting used to taking notes on a laptop, but it was much better then carrying all the binders I had.

What helps you manage your stress and stay motivated?

I manage my stress by working out every day after school. I lift weights, run, or join my brothers at the boxing gym.

What helps me stay motivated is that I want to make a difference in my lifetime. I have come so far and so I do my best every day. I do not like failure, and I do not want to fail again. I had to take extra classes to boost my GPA in undergrad, I had to retake the MCAT, and I also had to reapply to medical school. I have failed many times in my short life, but I have never given up because there is so much I want to do for my community as a future physician.

Why did you choose your specialty?

I'm currently a Family Medicine PGY-2 at the UC Riverside School of Medicine in California. I went into Family Medicine because I wanted to help as many people as possible. As family medicine providers, we are able to see a wide variety of patients as we have been educated in many different specialties. This was very important to me as there is a Primary Care and specialty physician shortage here in the Riverside/San Bernardino County, and I wanted to help as many people as possible. I also really enjoy the continuity of care, as I may be in the hospital taking care of a stroke patient and then the following week taking care of that same patient in clinic. Because of this continuity of care, you develop trust and friendships with your patients and their families. This has been especially important during COVID-19, where there has been a lot of misinformation. I constantly get patients who read things on the internet and come to me for guidance. I enjoy being there for my patients and helping them manage their health. 

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