October 28th, 2013

World-Famous Brain Surgeon to Speak at Perryville Branch Library

Becoming Dr. Q BookI grew up smack dab in the middle of the long, fertile central valley of California–the area where many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables are grown. We even had a tiny orchard in our suburban backyard where, as a kid, I often climbed up into our peach tree to read. I especially loved the spring, when my airy arboreal perch was surrounded by colorful blossoms. When the family station wagon traveled down Highway 99 to visit our grandparents, there were agricultural fields as far as the eye could see. The valley summers were hot, hot, hot, and I felt sorry for the many migrant workers who were doing such dusty, back-breaking work in that unrelenting sun.

Years ago, after moving to Maryland, I happened to watch a documentary on phantom limb pain. I can pinpoint that moment as the start of my interest in the human brain.  From that time on, I read books written by brain surgeons and enjoyed stories about people who had overcome learning disabilities or illnesses. Modern medicine has made great strides in understanding the workings of the brain, but there is always more to learn.

Imagine my jealousy earlier this year when a coworker mentioned that she had heard a very inspiring speaker at her daughter’s middle school. The speaker was Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, a world-renowned brain surgeon at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Medical Center. Known as “Dr. Q,” he is a standout in his field—a skilled and passionate surgeon who is dedicated to finding innovative ways to treat and prevent brain tumors. His cutting-edge research in neurosurgery is augmented by international care missions and the mentoring of students.

But what makes Dr. Q’s story even more amazing is the fact that he started out as an undocumented migrant farm worker in California, like the ones I noticed as a kid. He hardly spoke English when he arrived, but in less than 10 years, was at the top of his class at Harvard Medical School.

Due to his own bad judgment, Dr. Q nearly died when he was 22; it was his experiences in the hospital that made him want to be a doctor. In the years that followed, and even today, he has drawn on all the experiences of his life to provide solutions to problems. Dr. Q’s background and the discrimination he sometimes still encounters make him aware that every person, no matter what role they play or what skills they have, can make valuable contributions. He has incorporated multidisciplinary collaboration into his research lab, including input from the patients themselves.

I’m thrilled to share that the Perryville Branch Library will be hosting a special evening with Dr. Q on Tuesday, November 12th at 7pm. This is a free opportunity to listen to and talk with this brilliant and down-to-earth man. And who knows? Maybe this encounter will touch your life in ways you couldn’t have imagined. Click here to sign up or call 410-996-6070 ext. 3

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April 5th, 2012

Take a Step Back in Time…


A few decades ago I migrated to Maryland from the west coast, armed with a fresh bachelor’s degree in History. Although California has a rich background—Spanish missions and the Gold Rush—it doesn’t compare to the extraordinary depth of history that transpired in Maryland.

Maryland—the seventh of the original 13 colonies–became a state on April 28th, 1788. The Colonial Era, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, and more recent events have all left their mark on the politics and property of this state. Even now, artifacts appear in unlikely places: arrowheads and minie balls crop up in backyards, and a couple of years ago I found an 1893 penny while digging a hole for a tree.

For me, history is best learned through stories and lectures about the people. Facts are helpful, but I’d much rather hear what life was really like in those days. When I start to complain about how slow a website loads or about the cost of a gallon of gas, I try to remember that a couple of hundred years ago most people couldn’t read, and walking was usually how a person got from one place to another, no matter how far.

With that in mind, I’m very excited about several library programs coming up in April. On Saturday, April 14th, the grounds of the Perryville Branch Library will be transformed into a Civil War camp! Please stop by between the hours of 10 and 5 to experience a Civil War training camp, including company drills, demonstrations and firing of musket rifles (which I need to warn the police about in case they get calls…). The reenactors will represent actual Confederate and Union Civil War companies from Cecil County and Maryland. It will be fun for the whole family–no registration required.

Then, on Monday, April 23rd at 6:30, our Chesapeake City branch will also be hosting a Civil War program. Fort Delaware, located on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River, wasn’t completed until 1859, but it soon became home to several thousand prisoners of war. Author Bruce Mowday will provide details of the role that Fort Delaware played in the Civil War, including the story of Southern prisoners trying to survive and Northern guards trying to endure the desolate outpost. Register via our website, or call the Chesapeake City branch at 410-996-1134.

I still pull out my 1893 penny every now and then, but some of you may have stronger ties to history. What connects you to the past?

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