Improving Public Health through Education and Outreach

Dr. Alexandra Garcia

Meet Alexandra Garcia, PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor and Graduate Advisor for the UT Austin School of Nursing. “It is a privilege to work as a nurse and be a Graduate Advisor. These roles are very meaningful to me as I get to supervise our master's and doctoral students, who will make a difference in patients' lives, while teaching public health and conducting research which helps inform policymakers at organizational and governmental levels about how to improve health. Nursing has it all!”

Dr. Garcia’s research focuses on understanding what impacts people's ability to do the things they need to improve their health when they have chronic illnesses, like diabetes. About a third of adults in the US have at least two chronic conditions, and the number is higher for people in older age groups. Having two or more chronic illnesses is usually more difficult for people to manage because they have to make sense of different symptoms, take more medications, have more appointments with healthcare providers, and they follow more instructions to self-manage their illnesses. All this means they need extra support and highly tailored information to be healthy.

Dr. Garcia’s research explores the effects of environmental and social conditions, like housing stability, food availability, transportation, access to green space, and feelings of discrimination and loneliness, that affect people's health. These social determinants of health are estimated to account for about 50% of what makes people healthy; health behaviors for about 30%. This means addressing the social determinants of health can have a huge impact on the health of people in Central Texas. “I work with many people such as other researchers, health care providers, community-based organizations, policy-makers and community members to learn about issues affecting communities and strategies for improving community health. The work can be challenging because there are so many factors involved. Some of the problems affecting community health, like poverty, can seem intractable however it is inspiring to know that there is a lot of evidence which proves that we can make an impact on these issues.”

“I have been drawn to all that the nursing profession has to offer - a focus on people of all ages, in health and illness, anywhere, any time. I enjoy working with individuals, families, groups, and communities; helping people understand health information, learning from them about how they are affected by illness and how they take care of their health. Nursing is very intellectually stimulating and well as socially and emotionally fulfilling. I hope everyone finds a job that offers them so much!”