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As linebacker on the Vanderbilt University football team, Michael Garcia learned lessons on the gridiron that instilled in him the benefits of discipline, hard work and organization — traits he believes will serve him well as he enters the UCF College of Medicine.

“If my life were a concerto, it would have the themes of curiosity and compassion with sports on the percussion,” Garcia wrote in his medical school application. “It may be uncommon to prepare for a career in medicine by playing football … although the orthopedic experiences alone were lessons in anatomy and function.”

The son of an OB-GYN, Garcia says he has wanted to be a doctor since childhood. As a young man he loved science, biology and animals, and was fascinated by creatures like the lizards that he found in his backyard. But his greatest inspiration was his father, who had forgone a career in professional football and baseball to become a doctor. “When I saw how positively he affects people’s lives, I wanted to follow in his footsteps,” says Garcia.

As a student-athlete, the demands of sports and academics shaped Garcia’s daily routine: Morning rehabilitation and weightlifting at 6 or 7 a.m., class until the early afternoon followed by football film study; practice at 4 p.m. followed by dinner and studying. He suffered a nearly career-ending knee injury, followed by multiple surgeries and nine months of grueling rehabilitation. “It taught me balance and being organized,” he says. “If you get behind you can really, really be hurting.”

During his junior and senior years he also fit in time in the laboratory, conducting research to map how the brain interprets and responds to sound. Garcia says he’s always been interested in the brain – “and as a linebacker, I’ve sure taken a lot of blows to the head.” He also worked as a research technician at Massachusetts General Hospital’s cardiac surgical lab. And his decision to attend UCF’s medical school was influenced heavily by founding dean Dr. Deborah German’s story, attitude and vision. During his campus visit interview, he also liked the college’s welcoming and inclusionary culture, its openness and its commitment to student success.

headshot of michael garcia

Meet Michael Garcia

“If my life were a concerto, it would have the themes of curiosity and compassion with sports on the percussion.”

Jacksonville, Florida
Earned his B.S. in neuroscience from Vanderbil, M.S. in Medical Sciences from BU, and M.D. from UCF
Played linebacker for the Vanderbilt University Commodores.
Served as a student executive director for the LEAD Scholars Academy.
Competed in the Gaylord Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee.

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