Skip to main content

Americas ,

From Migrant Farm Worker to Leading Physician-Scientist

If you need an inspiring story or morale boost, or know someone in need of
either, here’s a doozy.  The 9 August issue of New England Journal of Medicine tells the story of Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, assistant professor of neurosurgery and oncology and director of the brain-tumor stem-cell laboratory at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.  Quiñones-Hinojosa came to the United States in the mid-1980s as a 19-year old illegal immigrant, and went to work harvesting produce in the California farm fields.

From the
fields, he took jobs as a janitor and welder, and eventually got admitted to a
community college, where he learned English. Quiñones-Hinojosa also got a few
breaks — good mentors (see our article this week on that subject) and
scholarships — to go along with his deepening interests in math and science
that led to University of California at Berkeley and Harvard Medical School. At
Harvard, he discovered neurosurgery, his eventual forte, but along the way he
also developed a sense of responsibility to the larger community. It is quite a
story; read the whole thing.

And while you’re reading about Quiñones-Hinojosa, think
about a bill now being considered by the
Virginia legislature to prohibit public colleges and universities from enrolling
illegal immigrants, even if they attended public high schools and came to the
United States at an early age (Quiñones-Hinojosa did neither). Virginia state
legislators supporting this bill should take a day trip from Richmond to
Baltimore — it’s a short drive on I-95 — to explain their position to Alfredo
Quiñones-Hinojosa, and then try and explain to the rest of us how their bill
benefits Virginia and the nation.

Hat tip: Freakonomics blog on the New York Times.