From Migrant Worker to Neurosurgeon

There is an incredibly interesting and moving first-person article in the current New England Journal of Medicine. It’s called “Terra Firma — A Journey from Migrant Farm Labor to Neurosurgery,” by Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, who is the director of the brain-tumor stem-cell laboratory at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He came to the U.S. illegally from Mexico in the mid-1980′s, as a teenage migrant worker who didn’t speak English. Through a long series of hard jobs, accidents, inspiration, and mentorship, he wound up attending Berkeley and then Harvard Medical School. It isn’t a long article; go read it, now.

Even though it is pretty much a fool’s game to make predictions, I will go ahead and make a couple here:

1. Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa’s story will be invoked in the current Presidential campaign by a candidate — or many candidates? — arguing for immigration reform. And don’t be surprised to see him attend a State of the Union address someday as a special guest, invited by the President.

2. If it hasn’t happened already, Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa will get calls from book publishers begging him to put his story between hard covers. If his brief NEJM account is at all indicative of the book he would write, I surely hope he accepts.

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  1. frankenduf says:

    this story is inspirational, but it also is a sad example of brain drain- the doc has decided not to return to the motherland, and many of these stories show immigrants unfulfilled if they move back home- imagine mexicans reading this story and feeling ambivalent about their own home!- this story is not only a call to realize the good that immigrants contribute to our country, but a call for more economic justice in Mexico to abate the viscious cycle of brain drain

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  2. frankenduf says:

    this story is inspirational, but it also is a sad example of brain drain- the doc has decided not to return to the motherland, and many of these stories show immigrants unfulfilled if they move back home- imagine mexicans reading this story and feeling ambivalent about their own home!- this story is not only a call to realize the good that immigrants contribute to our country, but a call for more economic justice in Mexico to abate the viscious cycle of brain drain

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  3. ed says:

    Awesome story! Good for him! …and bad for Mexico. Yet another example of the brain-drain, which doesn’t bode well for the future of that beautiful, but sad country. And it still doesn’t change the fact that he came here illegally. We need to be careful not to excuse rule breaking with good intentions, or, in this case, a beneficial outcome. The rules are in place so everyone has the same shot. And being consistent with that is as fair as we can hope to be. …also, weirdly, this article argues the same point as many anti-choice abortion activists. Which is “careful, because you just might be killing the next Albert Einstein?!

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  4. ed says:

    Awesome story! Good for him! …and bad for Mexico. Yet another example of the brain-drain, which doesn’t bode well for the future of that beautiful, but sad country. And it still doesn’t change the fact that he came here illegally. We need to be careful not to excuse rule breaking with good intentions, or, in this case, a beneficial outcome. The rules are in place so everyone has the same shot. And being consistent with that is as fair as we can hope to be. …also, weirdly, this article argues the same point as many anti-choice abortion activists. Which is “careful, because you just might be killing the next Albert Einstein?!

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  5. Bryan says:

    Fantastic, great for him. Sometime’s fate shows up and deals a good hand. Now will this be great for America when our land is swarmed with illegal aliens who are ignorant of our customs, our language, and our lifestyle. Adapt and overcome, which the good Dr. obviously did and succeeded. There are no right or wrong answers. Sure it would be great to offer an opportunity to everyone, but if it’s so great here, why don’t other countries start mimicking us. Why didn’t the good DR. go back home to help his fellow man. He enjoys the fruit of his success…Now one person does become successful b/c of his chances. Compare that to the thousands in prison, the uneducated, the poor, the ones who are suckling our economy into the ground. Let everyone come here to America and destroy us.

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  6. Bryan says:

    Fantastic, great for him. Sometime’s fate shows up and deals a good hand. Now will this be great for America when our land is swarmed with illegal aliens who are ignorant of our customs, our language, and our lifestyle. Adapt and overcome, which the good Dr. obviously did and succeeded. There are no right or wrong answers. Sure it would be great to offer an opportunity to everyone, but if it’s so great here, why don’t other countries start mimicking us. Why didn’t the good DR. go back home to help his fellow man. He enjoys the fruit of his success…Now one person does become successful b/c of his chances. Compare that to the thousands in prison, the uneducated, the poor, the ones who are suckling our economy into the ground. Let everyone come here to America and destroy us.

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  7. Sheila says:

    This is yet another example that in order to really succeed in America, you HAVE to speak English. Ok, now I’m inviting arguments about the actual nature of success, but my point stands. He knew this which is why his first step was to learn the language.

    WHY WHY WHY are we so afraid of offending and hurting people if we were to make English our official language? The argument has been made that we are trying to hold them down if we do that, but what of enabling them?? Let’s take the tough love approach. We want you to succeed, so therefore, we are putting these rules into place to help insure your success. Reach, stretch, dream… and we’ll help you get there, but you have to play by the rules… this is our house after all.

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  8. Sheila says:

    This is yet another example that in order to really succeed in America, you HAVE to speak English. Ok, now I’m inviting arguments about the actual nature of success, but my point stands. He knew this which is why his first step was to learn the language.

    WHY WHY WHY are we so afraid of offending and hurting people if we were to make English our official language? The argument has been made that we are trying to hold them down if we do that, but what of enabling them?? Let’s take the tough love approach. We want you to succeed, so therefore, we are putting these rules into place to help insure your success. Reach, stretch, dream… and we’ll help you get there, but you have to play by the rules… this is our house after all.

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