Dr. Clarisa Garcia grew up in Ben Bolt, a tiny town in South Texas. Her parents were both educators and she was a model student.
“I got straight A’s, and I was in the National Honor Society,” she says. “I always say that I was a really good kid. Then I fell in love.”
She got married at 16 and had a child at 17 – and her obstetrician helped inspire her to become a doctor.
“I was a teenage mom and people were always judging,” she says. “But I admired my obstetrician because he treated me with respect, like any other mom. But I didn’t really see Hispanic females who were physicians. It didn’t cross my mind that it was something that I could do.”
With support from her family, she started college and discovered how much she loved biology. She thought maybe she would work in health care, but still didn’t see herself as a doctor. Then, one day it clicked.
“I realized that maybe I could be a physician. I should just try,” she says. “My husband promised that he would support me in whatever I wanted to do. And our son inspired me to be a mom that he was proud of. I don’t think I would have had the tenacity or the dream to become a doctor without him.”
Using her mom brain and her doctor brain
After college, she attended medical school at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and became Clarisa Garcia, M.D. During her second year, she was assigned to a pediatric cardiology clinic – where she became fascinated with the discipline and never looked back.
Dr. Garcia did her residency at the University of Utah and her fellowship at UT Southwestern. Then she started practicing with Pediatric Cardiology Associates of Houston, a member of Children’s Health, where she’s been since 2014. In 2020 she was promoted into her new roles as the Medical Director.
As a general Pediatric Cardiologist, Dr. Garcia diagnoses and treats kids with congenital heart defects (which happen when a baby’s heart doesn’t form properly in the womb). She also works with athletes who are experiencing heart problems and helps educate young athletes about heart conditions.
“One of my favorite things is getting an athlete back on the field after they’ve had a heart problem,” she says. “I also love watching my patients grow up and building strong relationships with them and their families.”
Dr. Garcia’s philosophy is to care for her patients as if they were her own children. She does this by using her “doctor brain” and her “mom brain.” In addition to using her medical expertise, she thinks about a child’s illness from a parent’s perspective and tries to provide all of the information she would want if the patient was her child.
“When I diagnose a congenital heart defect, I’ll explain what it is to the family,” she says. “And, if appropriate, I’ll also tell them that their child is going to be fine – when they grow up they’ll be able to play sports and get married and have a normal life expectancy. Because that’s what I would want to know from a mom’s perspective.”
“If she can do it, I can do it”
Outside of her medical practice, Dr. Garcia describes herself as a “typical suburban mom with a wagon full of sports gear.” She now has four children and has been married to her husband for over 20 years. She enjoys coaching her daughter’s cheerleading team and cheering on her three sons in their various sports.
Dr. Garcia joined the Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce in 2020, to get more involved with her community. She hopes working with the organization can be an avenue for educational outreach about pediatric heart problems and other health issues like COVID-19.
“We can really help people by going out into the community and meeting them where they are,” Dr. Garcia says. “I hope that I could be a role model to some little girl or boy like me, who had maybe never seen a young parent in medical school or a female Hispanic doctor. I hope they might think ‘if she can do it, I can do it too.’”
Clarisa Y. Garcia, MD
Medical Director of PCAH
11301 Fallbrook Dr. | Suite 110 | Houston, Texas 77065