Emory College senior Eduardo "Eddie" Garcia has excelled as a scholar, residence life adviser, a tutor and mentor to pre-school children, and the founder of a medical interpretation service that has assisted hundreds of Atlanta's immigrants and refugees. Along the way, he built a reputation for extraordinary compassion, generosity and kindness, and an unwavering dedication to building community, both on and off campus.
In recognition of his service, Garcia is this year's recipient of the Lucius Lamar McMullan Award, which also comes with $25,000, no strings attached. The award is given to an Emory College graduate who shows extraordinary promise of becoming a future leader, and rare potential for service to their community, the nation and the world. The award was established by 1947 Emory alumnus William L. Matheson in honor of his uncle.
"I was shocked and so deeply humbled to receive the McMullan Award," says Garcia. While some of the gift will go toward medical school, Garcia says he plans to give away a portion. "I'm giving it a lot of thought and prayer because I want to be sure that it can help make the biggest impact possible for people in need," he says.
Garcia is graduating with a major in chemistry and a minor in global health, culture and society. He will attend the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine at Texas Tech University next year and hopes to become a family physician dedicated to underserved communities.
Garcia spent the first 12 years of his life in Mexico until his family immigrated to El Paso, Texas, where he graduated from high school. He says his family and his Catholic faith motivate and push him to do his best and to serve others.
"My parents sacrificed everything to give us better opportunities. We didn't have a lot but we always had enough. They always taught me to be thankful for what you have, and when you receive blessings, you have an obligation to work to share those blessings and bless others," he says.
That ideal motivated Garcia when he came to Emory as a QuestBridge Scholar, part of a national program that matches high-achieving, low- and middle- income students with some of the nation's top colleges and universities. Students are provided with a full scholarship.
In his freshman year, Garcia volunteered more than 300 hours in AmeriCorps' Jumpstart program, which prepares children from low-income communities for success in the classroom. He was named Emory's Corps Member of the Year, and rose to the position of team leader in his sophomore year, which involved an additional 300 hours of service.
His most enduring contribution to the community may be his work in cofounding the Emory University Volunteer Medical Interpreter Service (VMIS). This program trains Emory students to serve as medical interpreters for non-English speaking patients.
While volunteering in a free health clinic in Atlanta, Garcia noticed a serious lack of medical interpreters given the large Hispanic population they were serving, and had long recognized how language barriers make access to quality health care difficult for individuals with limited English.
Garcia recruited other Emory students to assist him in cofounding the organization, and secured a grant from Emory's Office of the Executive Vice President for Health Affairs and a partnership with Grady Memorial Hospital. VMIS now thrives with a large group of undergraduate and graduate student interpreters, and collaborations with professors, local clinics and nonprofit organizations.
He has also been active as an RA, or resident adviser. In recognition of his exemplary leadership and his outstanding commitment to the Atlanta community, Garcia received the J.J. Canter Award from the Office of Residence Life and Housing in 2011.
"I feel I was placed here on a path by God, and it is expected of me to give back and make a difference, so I've been committed to what I am passionate about," Garcia says. "I love being connected to my community, and I've loved my time at Emory."