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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.