education, literacy, Veteran

BOOK REVIEW- Becoming Dr. Q: Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, MD

By Richard Soto

(bw) Today, over 600,000 individuals, including nearly 30,000 children, are living with a diagnosis of a primary brain or central nervous system tumor in the United States.  Approximately 75 percent of non-adult patients diagnosed with brain tumors are under the age of fifteen.  Brain cancer is the deadliest form of childhood cancer.  We also know there are more than 130 types of brain tumors, which can make diagnosing brain cancer a challenge.

Challenge:  A call to take part in a fight; defy; dare.
‘Brain waste’ thwarts immigrants’ career dreams.  Stockton Record Sunday  March 27, 2011 pg A7. “Brain waste”–a term applied to immigrants who are skilled professionals in their home countries, yet are stymied in their efforts to find work in the United States that makes full use of their education or training.

An analysis by researchers at the Migration Policy Institute, estimated that 1.2 million college-educated immigrants in the United States were underemployed, out of a population of 6.7 million.  About an additional 350,000 were unemployed.  For employers in the United States this “brain waste” means a missed opportunity to leverage already trained professionals in areas where there may be a desperate need for them.  In addition to being professionally trained a significant number of these individuals bring with them a language and cultural competency that is much needed in the majority/minority Mexican community.

On Friday Sept 23, 2011, I purchased a copy of “Becoming Dr. Q.” and from Friday evening to Sunday night I read, underlined, highlighted, cried, and was amazed by the obstacles and challenges that Dr. Quinones endured in Mexico and the United States to become a highly regarded and respected Neurosurgeon and mentor.

The 317 page biographical book is broken into three parts. Dr. Q’s grandparents Tata Juan his first true mentor and Nana Maria a highly respected and thought out Curandera [natural healer] help set the stage.  Dr. Q states in his book that he respected his Tata because of his ability to overcome obstacles set in his path.  He was also in awe of Nana Maria’s role as a healer and pillar of the community.  Dr. Q states, “through her work as a Curandera, she taught me the most important lesson I would learn about the treatment and care of patients: in all matters, the life and the well-being of the patient must come first.”

Throughout the book Dr. Q shares true life experiences from working in the fields, and jumping fence at the border to enter the U.S.

Dr. Q translates his experiences into “consejos” [advices] and speaks of experience vs. book smart when he states, “I understood that IQ was not just book-based; rather you had to be broad-based and keep your ear to the ground for knowledge that might come from unlikely sources.  Brilliant book smarts could still be an asset, but so too was the ability to organize your time, know who to ask for guidance, and be savvy about who was a reliable resource.”

After jumping the border fence for the second time, Dr. Q works his way up to Mendota, Stockton, San Joaquin Delta College and almost dies, and has a life altering experience while working at the Port of Stockton.

In the 2nd section of the book Dr. Q speaks of the many challenges he faced as he undertook rigorous courses to prepare himself for Medical School.  To help him with his English he bought an English/Spanish dictionary and used it constantly.  Dr. Q also addresses what many of us older Chicano professionals experienced as we went off to pursue our career goals.  Discrimination and Isolation, being the only Mexican in advance classes, not being recognized for our ability and potential, constantly being told that we were affirmative action students and that the only reason we were passing is because the professors feel sorry for us.

Dr. Q responded by making an observation of his own.  “I owed it to myself and to everyone who believed in me to make the most of those chances, to make some decisions about my destination and then to accelerate.” 

Again I was reminded of a book I had read and used years ago when working with young people.  The book is entitled, If you Don’t know where you’re going you’ll probably end up somewhere else.  Dr. David Campbell, Ph.D. 

If you are getting the impression that Dr. Q is some kind of super person I need to remind you as he states earlier in the book that he had wanted to become an educator and navigated that pathway in Mexico and graduated and became a teacher at the age of 19 but never practiced.  This is a background that he has in common with the late Jaime Escalante of Stand and Deliver fame.  In addition to coming to the United States as an already prepared professional his self esteem and Identity were developed and nurtured at an early age and in a safe environment, Mexico.  This is not meant to distract from the passion and drive that Dr. Q has but to address the 50% plus dropout rate of Hispanics in the U.S. and Stockton.

In addition to his academic preparation Dr. Q elaborates on, and I feel this is the most valuable part of the book, the associations, mentors, study habits, time management, and the need to create a support system.  It was at Delta College that Dr. Q learned the power of writing and states “The opportunity to express my own strong point of view on the page was a new, empowering experience.  One of his mentors, Dr. Santiago Roman y Cajal laid out a roadmap for doing good science that emphasized three main steps: first, think clearly; second, design your experiments appropriately; and third, work extremely hard and never give up.  Cajal was insistent that scientists not only conduct research but also write about their findings so that others could continue the work.

In section 3 Dr. Q is finally reaping  a little bit of a financial reward but much more of a “corazon” reward and describes the hundreds of professional mentors that have crossed his path and helped him along the way.  Dr. Q also describes a number of memorable cases, many with positive outcome and some heart breakers.

Dr. Q is now one of my most cherished and must read books.  I called my niece “Christina Garduno” who just started her freshman year at CSU Fresno and told her she had to come home on Saturday the 8th and hear Dr. Q. at Delta College. ■

About bilingualweekly

Bilingual Weekly News brings you community news in both English and Spanish, covering information such as Stockton News, San Joaquin News, Latino News, Hispanic News, Mexican-American News, Bilingual News, Government News, Political News, Arts News, Tracy News, Manteca News, Lodi News, Modesto News, Stanislaus News, Education News, Stockton Unified School District, San Joaquin County Office of Education, Health News, Environmental news, and much more!



  1. Pingback: The 2011 Top 10 Stories Most Read « BW News | Local Matters! - January 2, 2012

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