October 28th, 2013
I 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