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From Potatoes to Pre-Med: Dr. Carlos Alvarez

Dr. Carlos Alvarez
Dr. Carlos Alvarez

Over 20 years, Dr. Carlos Alvarez has taught chemistry labs and graduate classes, led missions trips to South America, sponsored the Pre-med Club, and pointed students to use their abilities for Christ.

Before becoming the familiar teacher students have appreciated over the years, Dr. Alvarez studied in South America, earning a master’s degree in agriculture by studying the best ways to grow over 300 different types of potatoes at the International Potato Center. “Here at the supermarket you just have a few [types of potatoes]. [But] I have seen the most incredible potatoes—colorful and everything—so [we] tried to preserve that and improve that.”

Through studying with his mentor, Dr. Alvarez met his wife Leyla. “I always joked that I met her at the family reunion,” said Dr. Alvarez, “but that’s how I met her. She is the niece of my professor’s wife, and, because we were working so close, I got to know that side of the family.”

They married and moved to the States where he worked with a Christian professor at the University of Georgia. Dr. Alvarez, who had accepted Christ as his Savior as a sophomore college student in Peru, got to know many of the Christians at the university and was invited to worship at one of the local independent Baptist churches. He and his wife loved the fellowship they found there.

After Dr. Alvarez earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry, the pastor of the church approached him and suggested he begin using his time to serve the Lord, quickly suggesting teaching at a Christian college. When he learned that Pensacola Christian College needed faculty, Dr. Alvarez contacted PCC.

“They said, hey, come for a visit. That was twenty years ago and [the MacKenzie Building] was relatively new. They [also] took us to the Academy. We wanted our children to have a Christian education, and it was difficult for us to afford a good Christian school in Georgia,” he said.

Dr. Carlos Alvarez took the teaching job, and Leyla began working at PCC’s Rebekah Horton Library. While he taught undergrad classes and chemistry labs, Dr. Alvarez earned his Ed.D. and went on to also teach graduate classes at PCC.

Since then, he’s volunteered to lead six missions trips through Youth Outreach Ministry (YOM) to teach English in South American countries including Peru, Ecuador, Chile, and Bolivia. While there, the missions team works with high school students, showing Christ’s love in the classroom. Each of the missions trips has grown, taking a separate team of PCC students every year. “We don’t just want to go and then come back in another year,” he said. “We want to do something that can be consistent so we can make a change there—because we do affect them.”

Another group Dr. Alvarez has cultivated is the Pre-med Club, a student-run club that breaks the barriers between the upper- and lowerclassmen in the pre-med program. He, as a sponsor, and Dr. Elijah Spencer work closely with the club, encouraging new students to take advantage of valuable resources.

“When students talk to students, it’s a lot more effective,” Dr. Alvarez said. “When [new students] meet somebody who took [all the classes] and has a 3.7 GPA, then okay, [they know] it’s doable.”

In his chemistry labs, Dr. Carlos Alvarez stresses not only the importance of understanding the concepts but also their significance. “The difficult thing [in the labs] is working on the data that you get—you can train them to do an experiment,” he said. “You really can mix, mix, mix, mix. But they have machines for that. It is the interpretation of the information. That is really when you use your talent.”

What started as a suggestion from a pastor became a ministry to influence the next generation of medical professionals. “There have been students who were insecure concerning their potential to succeed in post-graduate education,” he said. “Some of my best memories are from these students who went on and became excellent physicians or researchers.”

Read more about how God is directing and working through PCC faculty and alumni.