Internationally recognized leader to direct Moon Shots Program prevention efforts

MD Anderson News Release 08/26/2015

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has appointed former U.S. Public Health Service four-star Admiral Joxel Garcia, M.D. as the inaugural executive director of the cancer prevention and control platform, part of MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program. He joins MD Anderson on Aug. 31. 

“Dr. Garcia is an internationally recognized health care leader with proven experience and success in a variety of health care settings,” says Giulio Draetta, M.D., Ph.D., professor, Genomic Medicine and Molecular & Cellular Oncology and co-leader of the Moon Shots Program. “We’re excited to have someone of his caliber on board and know he will contribute a great deal to the platform and the program overall.”

“I’m honored to join the No. 1 cancer center in the nation,” says Garcia. “It’s truly exciting to join the MD Anderson family and work with world-class leaders, researchers and clinicians.”

The Moon Shots Program is an effort to dramatically accelerate the pace of converting scientific discoveries into clinical and population-oriented advances that significantly reduce cancer deaths. The cancer prevention and control platform, implements and disseminates evidence-based, community-focused programs to advance cancer prevention, screening, early detection and survivorship.

“It’s estimated that as much as 50 percent of the cancer burden in the American population is preventable,” says Ernest Hawk, M.D., vice president and division head, Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences and co-leader of the cancer prevention and control platform. “Cancer prevention and control, practiced at both the individual and population levels, are critical to success in our mission of ending cancer.”

“Dr. Garcia’s deep knowledge and long legacy of leadership in advancing all aspects of cancer prevention and control at the local, state, national and international levels will boost MD Anderson’s commitment to this aspect of our mission in new and transformative ways,” adds Hawk.

“I see myself as a catalyst to bring MD Anderson’s cancer control and prevention efforts to new heights in a sustainable and ever-growing way,” says Garcia.

The platform focuses on providing policy, education and services to achieve a measurable and sustainable reduction in the cancer burden, especially in the underserved population, for whom cancer and cancer risk factors predominate. This effort is taking what’s known about diet, exercise, sun protection, tobacco avoidance and human papillomavirus (HPV) beyond the walls of MD Anderson to reach people throughout Texas, the nation and the world.

Garcia began his medical career as an obstetrician/gynecologist and then become the commissioner for the State of Connecticut Department of Public Health. After serving as the deputy director for the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization in Washington, D.C., he moved into the corporate sector. There he worked as a senior vice president and senior medical officer at Maximus Federal Services Inc.

President George W. Bush appointed Garcia as the 13th U.S. assistant secretary for health. At the same time, he was appointed as a four-star Admiral for the United States Public Health Service and as the U.S. Representative to the World Health Organization. During this time, and as the highest ranking medical and public health official in the U.S., Garcia led more than 6,220 U.S. Public Service Commissioned Corps officers in the U.S. and in 88 countries for the protection, promotion and advancement of health.

Following his government service, Garcia returned to his native Puerto Rico and served as the president and dean of medicine for Ponce School of Medicine and Health Sciences. In 2012, he moved back to Washington, D.C. to serve as the director and chief medical officer for the Washington, D.C. Department of Health and as a founding partner with Aegis Health Security, a global health care advisory firm. With Aegis, he helped to create a health index to improve population health, including a reduction in the cancer burden.

Garcia has served on several boards of nationally recognized health care organizations, including the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the National Dialogue on Cancer. He has received numerous awards and honors including the Secretary of Defense Award for Exceptional Public Service, the U.S. Public Health Service Distinguished Service Award and honorary doctoral degrees from Carlos Albizu University in Miami, Fla., the Ponce School of Medicine in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and Universidad del Este in Carolina, Puerto Rico.