Dr. Alexander Garza, former assistant secretary for health affairs of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has been named as the medical director and homeland security adviser for Encinitas-based FirstWatch, a technology company dedicated to helping 911, EMS, fire, police, public health, and emergency management by harnessing the power of their data.
In his role at FirstWatch, Garza will serve as a liaison to the public health and safety communities, working to understand their challenges and helping to develop solutions. He will help agencies apply FirstWatch tools to their data to provide situational awareness and early warning, improve operational and clinical effectiveness, develop fusion centers and enhance overall system performance and collaboration.
While at DHS, Garza managed the department's medical and health security matters; oversaw the health aspects of contingency planning for all chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear hazards; and led a coordinated effort to ensure that the department was prepared to respond to biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction, as well as pandemics.
Garza started his career in emergency services in 1986 when he became an EMT shortly after starting college. He went on to become a paramedic while attending medical school at the University of Missouri. During his medical residency, he joined the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Corps, serving as a battalion surgeon and civil affairs public health chief in Africa and Iraq.
Prior to joining DHS, Garza held positions as the associate medical director of EMS for New Mexico, and the director of EMS for the Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department. While practicing emergency medicine he also served as a professor at medical institutions, including Georgetown University, the University of New Mexico and University of Missouri – Kansas City.
Garza holds a medical degree from the University of Missouri, Columbia School of Medicine, and a Master of Public Health degree from the Saint Louis University School of Public Health. A published researcher and recipient of more than a dozen awards, including the Bronze Star and Combat Action Badge, he has lectured nationally and internationally on topics related to emergency care, public health disaster medicine and terrorism.