Becoming Dr. Q Summary

Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa and Mim Eichler Rivas

Becoming Dr. Q

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Becoming Dr. Q Summary

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The memoir, Becoming Dr. Q: My Journey from Migrant Farm Worker to Brain Surgeon (2011), by Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa and Mim Eichler Rivas, narrates the doctor’s journey from farm laborer and illegal immigrant to one of the brightest students at Harvard Medical School. The book received a positive response from readers, who praise “ Dr. Q” for bringing his journey to life and teaching us the value of hard work and hope. The author practices neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he is the Director of the Pituitary Surgery Program.

Becoming Dr. Q begins with an insight into the author’s early years, and it ends with where he is now. He describes being the first-born child in a family of six and growing up outside Mexicali, Mexico. Ambitious and determined, Dr. Q started working at just five years old, selling food at gas stations. However, although his family is very poor, and he must always work, he does not neglect his studies.

Dr. Q is a gifted student who excels in most areas. By the time he is eighteen, he is a qualified teacher in the local community. Around this time, he decides that he wants to see the world and to fulfill his potential in the United States of America. He is aware that it won’t be easy, but he isn’t prepared to give up. He knows he has a lot to offer the country. After a handful of failed attempts, Dr. Q jumps the border between Mexico and the USA. Delighted to have made it into America, he knows his troubles are far from over. He must learn English and find a job to make money so that he can fulfill his dream. The only jobs he can find are unskilled labor jobs.

He stays with a family who also had made it across the border. They can’t understand his determination to go to school. They think he should be content to live in America and work in the fields because this is a far better life than he had in Mexico. Dr. Q knows, though, that he didn’t leave his family behind for nothing; he’ll never be content until he fully assimilates into American culture.

Eventually, Dr. Q gets a new job as a welder for a railroad company. He almost dies on the job one day. When he wakes up in hospital, in the intensive care unit, he realizes that helping people is what he wants to do for the rest of his life. Once he knows enough English to handle the course, he applies to Berkeley where he majors in psychology. Inspired by his brush with death and his grandmother, who is a healer back in Mexico, Dr. Q never gives up and, eventually, is accepted into Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Q’s major passion is neurology; he’s determined to one day find a cure for cancer. He believes there are ways to use natural stem cells from our own bodies to heal ourselves instead of relying on invasive therapies. He hopes that someone will continue his research one day. Moreover, he hopes to inspire others to enter the medical profession.

Dr. Q doesn’t just earn a name for himself at Harvard and Johns Hopkins because of his medical skills. He is passionate about helping impoverished students who lack opportunities. There is a real risk that many gifted people will fail to reach their potential simply because they come from poor backgrounds and can’t afford traditional routes into higher education. Dr. Q stands out for doing everything he can for such individuals.

What is important to Dr. Q, and a message he hopes we take from his book is that it doesn’t matter where we come from—all that matters is having big dreams and the courage to go after them. He treats everyone as an equal, from his fellow doctors to the hospital janitors, because everyone has value, and we’re all on the same side.

At work, Dr. Q emphasizes how important it is to empathize with patients. There is more to treating patients than traditional Western medicine; it’s all about looking after the individual, not just treating the illness. This is especially important when treating terminally ill patients. He acknowledges that his work often keeps him away from his family, but to Dr. Q, his patients are his calling, and he will never abandon them.

The book touches upon the idea that, although Dr. Q struggles at first to be accepted into the USA, developed countries are generally far more open to skilled migrants than the uneducated. Dr. Q explains that this is tragic because in most cases, the people who work the hardest are those who are grateful for an opportunity they fought hard for. Becoming Dr. Q offers us an oft-neglected perspective on immigration issues.