June 1, 2021

Why Dr. Meera Garcia left New York-Presbyterian for Arlington’s Advantia Health

Jun 1, 2021, 9:45am EDT (The Washington Business Journal)
Dr. Meera Garcia wants to transform health care for women.

In April, she left behind posts as division chief of OB-GYN at New York Presbyterian Hudson Valley and regional director of women’s health services at New York-Presbyterian Medical Group — yes, in the heart of the Covid-19 pandemic — to become chief medical officer for Advantia Health in Arlington.

Since joining the Northern Virginia women’s health group, Garcia has wasted no time. She’s getting her footing and building her priority list as Advantia keeps growing, fast.

Garcia joined just months after Vincent Bradley came on board as its new CEO, and a few weeks after the launch of Liv, its flagship health clinic on U Street in Northwest D.C., billed as a new type of practice with primary, gynecological, obstetrics, mental health and physical therapy under one roof. And she’s helping expand the company’s other assets, such as Pacify, the District telehealth startup Advantia acquired two years ago, and navigating a safe return to in-person care.

But first, after living in India, Ohio, Atlanta and New York City, she’s contending with her move to D.C. — and getting acquainted with the Metro for her new commute to work.

On changing jobs during the pandemic: I do think that those of us
who had changed jobs during the pandemic were faced with this
question that was not there prior in our professional career — this
question of… ‘Am I leaving my team at a critical time, and is that
going to be detrimental to women’s health, the delivery of health
care, and the quality of care?’ And once I was able to wrap my head
around that and I realized that I had set up a team, created a team
that I worked with who could carry on the projects that I had
started and the fact that some of those projects were coming to a
close, it felt like an appropriate time to make this change.

How do you adapt to a post-pandemic model of care? We need to
think outside the box. Covid-19 made us think outside the box with
telehealth, but I think Liv is another way we’re thinking outside the
box about the delivery of health care. So let’s take what we learned
in the past year and a half, two years, and the things that Advantia
has done so well during this pandemic, and make sure we put it
forth and adapt it to the new health care setting.

What would you say is Covid’s most lasting impact for the health
care sector? The health care industry, being as big as it is, was very
glacial to make changes. And the pandemic really tested the ability
of health care systems, of clinicians, of hospitals, practices to
adapt on a momentary notice. And we realized we could do that,
we could meet those needs. And I think that impact of knowing
that we as a health care industry are more elastic than we originally
thought can really help us work on innovation.

What’s an example? We are really going towards delivering care in
one location. Liv is an example of how we are creating the next
generation of health care, and we can provide basic women’s
health and wellness all in one location and through telehealth.
We’re the first practice in the region to offer that kind of
coordinated care. You can get obstetrics, gynecology, primary
care, mental wellness and many other advantages that you can’t
get from a traditional private practice and would be very hard to
coordinate in a large academic institution. What we’re trying to do
also is provide that convenience and that comfort in knowing that
you have a health care home.

How did the Covid-19 health crisis change you as a leader? There
was a significant lack of information as the first patient with Covid-
19 entered the health care facilities in New York City. We were just
overwhelmed. As a leader, I had to lead that march into the
battlefield and really open my eyes to how to be empathetic with
my fellow physicians and employees who were very scared and not
knowing what answers to give them.

What did you take from your experience in New York City during
the pandemic? We stopped visitors from coming to the hospital.
Labor and delivery, it’s a family experience. We had women
laboring “alone.” On the days that I was not on call, I was a doula.
As a leader, I realized that it’s not just higher-level processing of
ideas and implementation of plans; it is top down and bottom up,
and I wanted to be in a vibrant, active environment that was just
transforming health care.

What did you do in your free time through the pandemic? Living in
New York City, we walked everywhere. We would do urban hikes
where you would leave Columbia and walk all the way to Tribeca,
which is like a 12-mile hike. It was actually really beautiful, very little
pollution, no traffic.

What made you want to be a doctor? I think I have wanted to be a
doctor for as long as I’ve been able to think and have memory. I
think it’s a calling. I used to take apart my stuffed animals when I
was younger and sew them back together. I used to pretend to give
shots. And then while I was an early teen, my mom actually had my
younger brother, so I saw her go through that pregnancy process
and it was fascinating to me.

What was the first thing you did once you were fully vaccinated? I
went back to Atlanta to visit my mom and dad. It had been a year
since I saw them and it had been the longest in my entire life that I
had not seen my parents.

What’s next on your itinerary? My husband and I have been
traveling a lot more within the United States, and we are exploring
the American West this year. We went to Vegas and Nevada for my
birthday in April, Big Sky in Montana, did a little skiing, and we’re
going back to Big Sky to do Glacier National Park, and then in the
fall we’re going to Craters of the Moon in Idaho, Yellowstone and
Grand Teton.

Pet peeve? Punctuation, grammar, syntax and spelling. We write so
many emails, we write texts, we do spreadsheets, and to me, I
really think that giving language respect says a lot… so whether it
is a short email or a handwritten letter, those are the things that
really make it or break it for me. We have the ability to form words,
create languages, as human beings we are given this amazing tool
— it’s like having fire, right? And you need to use fire safely and
wisely. We need to use language well, mindfully and for a purpose.

The basics

Dr. Meera Garcia, chief medical officer, Advantia Health

Age: 49

Family: Husband, two daughters

Residence: Moving to D.C.

Education: Bachelor’s in biology and psychology, Case Western
Reserve University; M.D., Duke University School of Medicine; OBGYN
residency, Emory University

First job: Grocery bagger at a Kroger in Ohio as a sophomore in
high school

Sara Gilgore
Staff Reporter
Washington Business Journal