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Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon featured at Distinguished Speakers Series
By Kristen Cabrera, Intern
Posted: 11/20/2009
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One of the country’s top neurosurgeons Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa shared his inspirational story of once picking vegetables in the fields to currently performing brain surgery in the medical field during The University of Texas-Pan American’s Distinguished Speakers Series Tuesday, Nov. 17.


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Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa shares his inspiring story during the Distinguished Speakers Series Nov. 17.
Quiñones, an associate professor of neurosurgery and oncology at Johns Hopkins University and the director of the brain tumor program at Johns Hopkins Bayview campus, presented “Beyond the Borders of the Mind: Tertiary Care Centers in the 21st Century” at the Fine Arts Auditorium to a packed house.

The Harvard University honors graduate shared with the audience how he came to the United States as an illegal immigrant farmworker and went on to earn his medical degree.

Quiñones, who crossed into the United States from Mexico in 1987 at 19, told the audience his plan was to make enough money to send back to his family in a village outside of Mexicali, Mexico, but that changed after a relative told him he would spend the rest of his life working in the fields.

“I couldn’t accept that,” he said. “I couldn’t accept that picking vegetables and driving around with other migrants in the fields was all I was capable of doing. I loved what I was doing; it was great and honest work. But I just couldn’t accept that was it for me.”

However, in a way Quiñones said, his relative was right.

“I have spent the rest of my life working in the fields, not just the farm fields,” he said. “I am working in the field of neurosurgery and still working with my hands.” Quiñones also discussed what he believes makes a good physician.

“Many people may think what makes a good physician or scientist is actually intellect,” he said. “I completely disagree. I think its character, humility and passion. Passion for everything we do in addition to of course intellect.”


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Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, gives Alex Rodriguez, a member of the UTPA Student Government Association, an autograph after his speech at the Fine Arts Auditorium.
He also explained to the crowd the life lessons he has learned throughout the years – determination and embracing fear, passion for everything he does, dedication and admiration, and mentorship, which meant the most to him, he said.

“Be a mentor,” Quiñones said. “Don’t be a tormentor. Treat others the way you would like your loved ones to be treated, not the way you would like to be treated because sometimes we tolerate a lot.”

In the end Quiñones encouraged attendees to pursue their dreams.

“It’s not about a dream but about fulfilling your dream and working hard to fulfill your dream. ... Do not procrastinate you have a wonderful opportunity. All the students that were brought here today by your parents or teachers and all the university students, you have a great institution that supports you and a great country that needs you,” he said.

The Distinguished Speakers Series continues Feb. 2 with Lisa Ling a veteran television journalist for National Geographic and CNN. Luis Alberto Urrea, a poet, essayist and Pulitzer Prize finalist, will serve as the last speaker of the series on March 23.

For more information on the Distinguished Speakers Series, call 956/316-7989.