Hampton University Marine Science Professor Wins Prestigious 2019 NSF CAREER Award Worth $700,000

HAMPTON, Va. (June 5, 2019) – Hampton University graduate, Dr. Vanessa Garia, felt an immense sense of accomplishment when she walked across the stage to receive her pharmacy diploma during the 2019 Commencement Ceremony last month. A non-traditional student, Garia served her country in the U.S. military, decided to attend college, later married, moved to the Hampton Roads area, and had a child in the middle of her Pharm D. Program. But despite many of life’s unexpected turns, Garia did everything necessary to receive her Doctor of Pharmacy degree.

First-generation American-born, Garia graduated from high school in Pennsylvania in 2002 and then served for five years in the United States Navy. It was then that she decided to pursue a pharmacy degree. Two years after she left the Navy, Garia met her husband, who is presently on active duty in the Navy. Together, they moved to Hampton Roads and Garia attended Tidewater Community College to meet the pre-requisites in order to be accepted into Hampton’s Pharm.D. program.

Shortly after starting the Pharm. D. program in 2014, Garia found out that she was expecting a child. Her son was born in February 2015 and with the support of staff in the Pharmacy School, Garia took a leave of absence from the program for a year to spend that time with her newborn son.

“I found out my husband and I were expecting our first, we had been trying for a couple of years and it would have been nice if the timing worked out but that wasn’t the case. Once classes started, I let the school know that I was expecting and that I was planning on coming back. I thought I would be back in a week, but ended up with an emergency C-section. I did not intend to be gone from the program for so long but I was able to spend 11 months home with my son, not having to worry about putting him into daycare so young, and I realized that being able to stay home with him, was really a blessing in disguise,” Garia said.

After Garia was officially back in the program, she was extremely busy going to classes, taking care of her son while her husband was on deployment and volunteering at different events such as blood drives and blood pressure clinics. Earlier this year, she had the great opportunity of volunteering for one week in Honduras for Blanca’s House, an organization that brings much-needed, quality medical care to countries and communities throughout Latin America. “We did 27 knee replacements and while I was there, I was able to do everything from vital signs to giving the patients their medication. I’m fluent in Spanish so I was able to speak to the patients about going home and anything else they needed. I was also able to help translate in the operating rooms. It was truly a great opportunity for me,” Garia said.

Throughout her time at Hampton, when her husband was deployed, and the class work was piling up, and her son needed a myringotomy due to compromised hearing, she was forced to live day by day. “I had to remind myself, even when I felt that my head was barely above water, I had to remind myself to take it a day at a time because if I tried to look too far ahead, it was just too overwhelming. Learning to do that was really what got me through this program. Take it one day at a time, but work as hard as you can,” Garia said.

Despite life’s unexpected events, Garia managed to maintain her GPA throughout her time at Hampton, making the Dean’s List and graduating with a 3.56 GPA. The next step in her career will take her to Philadelphia, where she will spend the next year in clinical training at Nazareth Hospital. Once that is finished, her goal is to get a job as a pharmacist in a hospital, hopefully somewhere nearby family.

“It has truly been a pleasure to have Vanessa as part of our program. Not only has she been an excellent student, but she has also been active in the community over the years. She demonstrated a lot of maturity in taking a gap year to provide care for her child; I am happy that she eventually made it all work out. Her selection to Nazareth’s competitive residency program is a testament to her preparation and potential, and I have no doubt that she will continue to excel. I wish her the best for her future as she represents her Home by the Sea,” said Dr. Anand Iyer, Dean of the Hampton University School of Pharmacy.