Dr. Alex Garza Joins FirstWatch as Medical Director
and Homeland Security Advisor
Former assistant secretary and chief medical officer for U.S. Department of
Homeland Security sees data as key to systems improvements
Encinitas, Calif., April 9, 2013 — Alexander Garza, MD, MPH, former assistant secretary for health affairs of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has been named as the medical director and homeland security advisor for FirstWatch, a technology company dedicated to helping 911, EMS, fire, police, public health, and emergency management better serve their missions by harnessing the power of their data.
In his role at FirstWatch, Dr. Garza will serve as an important liaison to the public health and safety communities, using his unique perspective to understand their challenges and to help develop innovative solutions. He will help agencies apply FirstWatch tools to use the full power of their data to provide situational awareness and early warning, improve operational and clinical effectiveness, develop fusion centers, and enhance overall system performance and collaboration.
"Dr. Garza has been a friend and colleague for many years,” said Todd Stout, president of FirstWatch. “He’s been a tireless advocate for the value of 911 and EMS data. His unique perspective and background at the patient care level, system level, and policy level is a near-perfect match with the diverse markets we serve and the solutions we offer.”
“I believe in the power of data to improve systems,” said Dr. Garza, “and I’ve always enjoyed working with the public health and safety communities. FirstWatch stands out to me as a genuine and firmly grounded company that is filling an important need. It’s obvious that Todd and his team’s priority is to get the right solution for a customer rather than just sell a product, and that’s important to me.”
Dr. Garza said he is convinced that the entire field of emergency services is at a crucial turning point and evidence-based solutions must become the watchword. “EMS in particular has been slow to adapt to the use of data,” he said, “but is now making up for lost time—the challenge in front of us is to turn data that is just sitting there into useful, actionable information. The opportunities to help improve patient care are enormous.”
While at DHS, Dr. 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.
Dr. 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, Dr. 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 leading medical institutions, including Georgetown University, the University of New Mexico and University of Missouri – Kansas City.
Dr. 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 diverse topics related to emergency care, public health disaster medicine and terrorism.
FirstWatch, based in Encinitas, Calif., began monitoring 911 data in Kansas City, Mo., in 1999. Since then, FirstWatch has grown into a leader in real-time public safety data analysis used by 911, police, fire, EMS, emergency management and public health organizations in 35 states and provinces across the U.S. and Canada.
FirstWatch's Real-Time Situational Awareness system enables public health and safety organizations to monitor what's happening in their system as events are unfolding, enabling quick action and response. FirstWatch's software solutions are used to enhance situational awareness to protect the health and safety of emergency responders through specialized reports and alerts; to detect and alert public health and safety organizations to pandemic disease or bioterrorism; and to enable public safety agencies to meet operational performance goals and clinical quality measures.
For complete information, go to firstwatch.net.