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Cutberto Garza earned his B.S. in chemistry at Baylor University in 1969, his medical degree at Baylor College of Medicine in 1973 and a Ph.D. in nutrition and food science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976.

He served as director of the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell from 1988 to 1998 and again from 2003-2005. He was Vice Provost at Cornell from 1998 to 2000. Since 1998 he has been director of the Food and Nutrition Program of the United Nations University, a think-tank and community of scholars that serves as a bridge between the UN and the international academic community. In 2005 Garza took the position of academic vice president and dean of faculties at Boston College.

Prior to joining the Cornell faculty in 1988, Garza served as a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and as associate director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Baylor Children's Nutrition Research Center. He has served on numerous advisory groups for the U.S. government, the National Academies, the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.N. World Food Program and other local and international agencies. He chaired the 1999 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and served as chair of the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine from 1996 to 2002.