Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa

An Interview With Dr. Q

Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, MD, also known as "Dr. Q," was an illegal immigrant from Mexico. After years of work as a farm worker, he eventually became a U.S. citizen, graduated from Harvard Medical School, and is a renowned brain surgeon. Dr. Q was a plenary speaker at NAFSA's 2013 Annual Conference & Expo.

International Educator: When you first came to the United States, you worked on a farm. How did you get to college?

Quiñones: When I first came to the United States, I did work on a farm. I wanted to learn English and I wanted a better education for myself so I ended up moving from the fields of Fresno to a small town in Stockton and began to take English as a second language classes, which then eventually led me to the University of California at Berkeley, and then from there to Harvard, and where I am now, as a professor at Johns Hopkins.

International Educator: What hurdles did you face learning in a United States classroom as an undocumented student?

Quiñones: I faced some hurdles while I was learning English as an undocumented student. I think the most difficult hurdle to overcome was to believe in myself. When people tell you that things are challenging, times are challenging and more challenging times will be coming your way, it's a natural instinct to doubt yourself and I do believe it's okay to doubt yourself from time to time. I think it's healthy, but I think what is not healthy is not to overcome those fears. As an undocumented student, I think the greatest challenge is to learn how to live the American dream.

And the American dream doesn't necessarily mean you have to be a millionaire or that you have to live beyond your means. It means trying to help others, and that's something we have to inculcate in our future generations.

Elaina Loveland is the editor-in-chief of International Educator.

This is an excerpt of the interview (120kb Adobe PDF) that appeared in the July/August issue of International Educator.