David O. Garcia, PhD

Assistant Professor
Phone Number: 
(520) 626-4641
Professional Bio: 

Dr. Garcia completed his doctoral degree in Exercise Physiology on August 2013 from the Department of Health and Physical Activity at the University of Pittsburgh. His dissertation research examined the feasibility of campaign intervention, including a thematic framework and an incentive-based point system, as an alternative strategy for weight management. Dr. Garcia received his Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from Slippery Rock University and his Master’s Degree and his PhD in Exercise Physiology from the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to pursuing his doctoral studies, he worked at the University of Pittsburgh Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center where he assisted with numerous National Institutes of Health funded research studies examining the effects of exercise on weight loss and weight maintenance in overweight and obese individuals. These studies have provided him with invaluable experience in individual exercise counseling and group weight management. In addition, he has developed and implemented physical activity and weight management programs for corporate and community partners. Dr. Garcia began his R25 training in April 2014 and selected Cynthia Thomson, PhD (College of Public Health) as his primary mentor. Cecelia Rosales, MD (College of Public Health), and Bijan Najafi, PhD, M.Sc. (College of Medicine) also serve on his mentoring team. Dr. Garcia’s R25 research will promote physical activity with healthy dietary behaviors and weight management as it relates to cancer risk reduction and survivorship with a particular emphasis on health disparities in Hispanics.

Dr. Garcia is an Assistant Professor in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona. He has have extensive experience in short and long-term intervention trials in the areas of physical activity, diet, and weight management. He received his training from leading institutions and mentors in the field. Since 2006, Dr. Garcia has worked on numerous funded research projects, including research funded by industry, National Institutes of Health (NIH) and foundations. This includes working as a lifestyle interventionist/exercise physiologist in several clinical trials with overweight and obese adults, morbidly obese adults (Class II and III obesity), and individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Garcia's residency at the University of Arizona has afforded him an unprecedented opportunity to gain training in clinical research in the area of cancer prevention and survival. He secured a highly competitive NIH-NCI R25 Cancer Prevention and Control Fellowship at the University of Arizoan Cancer Center (UACC) and he is currently a co-investigator of the largest diet and physical activity intervention conducted for ovarian cancer survivors (n=1070). His roles are to consult in the areas of physical activity assessment and intervention and lead the analysis of physical activity data for manuscript development. This cooperative group trial employs a novel multimodal (telephone, SMS, blog, web) software program to promote lifestyle changes, further expanding his training to encompass innovative methodology and mobile technology for health behavior promotion. The pragmatic infrastructure of this trial is essential to implement clinical and translational research that informs on cancer outcomes, particularly for rarer cancers, thus offering him training in behavioral research that can be translated to a variety of intervention trials.

Dr. Garcia's expertise also has afforded him the opportunity to assist Dr. Robert Krouse with the development of a recently submitted R01 proposal examining the effect of an individualized exercise intervention on aspects of quality of life in rectal cancer survivors. In working with the ovarian cancer survivor intervention it became increasingly apparent that few meet physical activity guidelines for cancer survivorship. In fact, nationally it is estimated that less than 30% of survivors achieve guidelines for physical activity on a routine basis. One of the major barriers to physical activity in the survivor setting is chemo induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), a common side-effect of taxane-based chemotherapy, a concern of 30-40% of cancer patients treated with chemotherapy. To address this issue Dr. Garcia has initiated a collaboration with Dr. Bijan Najafi who has developed an innovative exer-game to promote balance and gait performances, change in which can be objectively quantified by validated wearable sensor technology. Their grant proposal was recently scored in the 1st percentile.

As a UACC Member, Dr. Garcia is well-positioned to develop and test innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to reduce the impact of CIPN for cancer patients and survivors and to promote regular physical activity in this at risk group. Specifically, this work will help to characterize the effects of CIPN drug class treatment by assessing metabolic biomarkers in combination with a tailored physical activity program to meet the individual needs of the patient to assist in the adoption and maintenance of a physically active lifestyle. This also could help to identify factors that influence adherence to physical activity behaviors among cancer survivors. In addition, he will apply his expertise to develop novel, high impact, and effective weight management strategies to reduce cancer risk and improve survivorship, owing to the disparate survival statistics for Hispanics diagnosed with this disease.

Research Information

Research Program: 
Cancer Prevention and Control
Member Status: 
Associate Research Member
Summary of Research Activity: 

Dr. Garcia’s current research focuses on the development of gender and culturally-sensitive weight loss interventions for Hispanic males. To support this effort, Dr. Garcia recently established “Nosotros Comprometidos a Su Salud -Committed to Your Health”, a program developed to support research through community service and partnering with underserved Tucson residents. Evidence from his preliminary research with this population group suggests that targeted, tailored behavioral programs are acceptable, sustainable and potentially efficacious. He is currently testing these approaches through on-going mixed method research among Hispanic males. The long-term vision of his research is to implement and evaluate large, multi-site trials to systematically influence community environments and eventually, policies in order to improve health among underserved populations.

Selected Publications: 

Academic Information

Exercise Physiology, University of Pittsburgh, Pa
Master's Degree: 
Health, Physica l Activity, and Chronic Disease - Research Focus, University of Pittsburgh, Pa
Undergraduate School: 
Exercise Science, Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock, Pa