Dr. Alfredo Quinones: the brains behind brain cancer research.

Author:Alter, Diane


Of all the great Cinderella stories, Dr. Alfredo Quinones--Hinojosa's tale truly stands out. His story is heartwarming, heart-wrenching, inspiring, and undeniably remarkable. Like most fairytale-esque stories, this one begins with "once upon a time ..."

The oldest of five children, Dr. Q--as he is now affectionately known--was born in a small village outside Mexicali. In 1987, at the tender age of 19 and with a voracious desire for a better life, young Alfredo crossed the border fence between Mexico and the United States. He did not speak English at the time and had no education to speak of. Young Alfredo immediately started working on California farms, and he eventually saved enough money to take English lessons. Some 12 years later, Dr. Q graduated from Harvard Medical School, was class valedictorian, and became an American citizen.

Dr. Q's story does not stop there. In fact, it just gets better.

After completing his residency in neurosurgery at the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Q headed to John Hopkins University, where he is now a professor of neurosurgery and oncology. His focus is on the surgical treatment of primary and metastatic brain tumors, with an emphasis on motor and speech mapping during surgery. In April, the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, hired the accomplished 48-year-old Dr. Q as the William J. and Charles H. Mayo Professor and chairman of neurologic surgery.

Dr. Q's recruitment to the Mayo Clinic is part of the clinic's strategy to establish itself as the go-to medical center for the Southeast United States and Latin America. In March, Mayo in Jacksonville announced it will begin $100 million in major development projects later this year. That includes the construction of a destination medical building to provide integrated services for complex cancers and for neurologic and neurosurgical care, Dr. Q's specialties.

Dr. Q's areas of expertise can be found in the more than 50 book chapters he has authored, the several textbooks on neurosurgical techniques and stem cell biology he has penned, and in his riveting autobiography, Becoming Dr. Q: My Journey from Migrant Farm Worker to Brain Surgeon, which earned him an International Latino Book Award in 2012.

"I admit I never imagined my life would turn out this way," Dr. Q told Latino Leaders. "I feel like I am living a dream and sometimes I worry that I will wake up from it. I grew up in extreme poverty. Often we did not even have food to eat. Yet while we were poor in economic means, we had richness in other ways. Our roots are steeped in wonderful history, and our family was tight. My mother was the pillar that kept us all together and connected."


Dr. Q admits there were dark times, especially when he first arrived in the United States. But he quickly learned that America offers many opportunities, and with hard work, he could succeed and thrive. That knowledge ignited the passion in him...

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