Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Ex-undocumented farm worker turned star neurosurgeon? The story of 'Dr. Q'

NPR has an interview today with a man who in his relatively young 43 years has gone from one extreme of the professional spectrum to the other. The story of Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa is rags-to-riches on steroids, fueled in part by 1980s-era immigration policies. 

Quiñones-Hinojosa crossed the border illegally in his teens and set to work picking produce in California, eventually managing to obtain a work permit through one post-amnesty measure that granted permits to farm workers. Along the way, he paid for community college working on oil tankers. He eventually made it to UC Berkeley, then medical school at Harvard.

Now a U.S. citizen, he directs the brain tumor program for one of the Johns Hopkins medical centers in Maryland. He's authored a book, "Becoming Dr. Q: My Journey from Migrant Farm Worker to Brain Surgeon." From the piece accompanying the audio on NPR's website:

He started by picking tomatoes, corn and broccoli. Later, he operated dangerous machinery in the fields. But things changed for him after a conversation with his cousin.

"The critical portion that got me out of the fields was my own cousin telling me that I was going to spend the rest of my life working as a migrant farm worker," Quiñones- Hinojosa says.

He could not imagine that life. He left the fields and headed north.

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