Por Jesika Millano
Para AL DIA TODAY
PALM BAY — José García, a 50-year-old family medicine physician practicing in Melbourne and Palm Bay, knew from an early age that he wanted to be a doctor.
Willing to make any sacrifice necessary to further his career, he left Cuba in 1995 and headed to the United States.
For Garcia, working as a doctor on the communist island was very difficult, and he knew that coming to the U.S. would help reduce those challenges. However, he also was aware that the number of immigrants who are able to continue their medical practice in the U.S. is very few.
Upon arriving in the U.S., Garcia’s life was similar to many other immigrants. He worked as a waiter in a restaurant, at a gas station, as a house painter, and as a gardener, never turning down any job opportunity.
Eventually, however, Garcia became part of the statistically low number of immigrant doctors who make it through the long and expensive process to be able to practice in this country.
He is currently working in primary care for children, adults, and the elderly at a public clinic in Melbourne, which he has been working for since 2011.
After leaving the island of Cuba because of communism and the Fidel Castro regime, he had to wait five years before he could enter a different health system.
“Those first years were difficult, but they were experiences that helped shape my path. I decided to throw myself into the unknown and move abroad,” Garcia said.
“The road was not easy, but God gave me many challenges that have made me a better person. It has been a very hard experience, but I do not regret anything.
“If I had to do it all over again, I would make the same choices. It was crucial for me to go through everything I did in order to practice my career again,” he said.
Garcia earned his medical degree in Cuba in 1986. Once he emigrated to the U.S., he would spend long hours studying to pass U.S. medical licensing exams, all while supporting himself with low-profile jobs.
“My first jobs helped to provide for me when I needed it. I even bought a carpet and furniture cleaning machine and spent a year and a half dedicated to that, but I always knew that I wanted to do medicine, it was my hope,” he said.
“At first, I was discouraged because it was not easy and sometimes, I got depressed. Nevertheless, I always kept my faith in God, and I knew that I was a doctor and my goal was to become a doctor in this country,” Garcia explained.
He eventually joined the residency program at Central Washington Family Medicine in Yakima, Washington. The program, affiliated with the University of Washington in Seattle, specialized in primary care and family medicine.
It was there that he completed his training and worked in the area of rural medicine until 2011 when he decided to move to Florida and to marry his wife, Annette Cuza García.
Today, Garcia is dedicated to the care of people with cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
“Most of my patients are Hispanic and lack knowledge regarding a good diet and nutrition,” Garcia said.
He shared that helping the Latino community is one of his main goals, which is why he came up with the idea of creating a medical office at the Brevard Hispanic Center. The center is located on Babcock Street near Palm Bay Road.
“When I was in Washington, I worked as a volunteer for a clinic that was dedicated to providing medical care to agricultural workers. They were Latinos without access to health insurance.
“This inspired me to create a similar health center here, taking into account that Hispanics are in even greater need because of their socio-economic conditions,” Garcia said.
“Thanks to God and Javier Molinares, that dream became a reality. Even though I did not participate in its creation, I am excited that something I suggested has become a reality today.”
Garcia serves as a volunteer physician at the Delacruz Volunteer Clinic of the Brevard Hispanic Center. The non-profit organization helps individuals and families without health insurance.
For more information on the clinic, call (321) 802-9516.