College of Arts and Sciences Commencement Address
Candidate for the Degree of Doctor of Science
Brain Surgeon and Professor, Johns Hopkins University
Embodying an American dream like no other, Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa journeyed from rural Mexico to the tomato fields and rail yards of Central California, toiling as a migrant worker. Although today he is known as Dr. Q., not too long ago he was an impoverished teenager living in a rural Mexican village before he hopped an 18-foot fence into California. Through hope, hard work, and persistence, he found his way and became a hero to many people in the Hispanic community.
When he was not working in the fields, Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosa attended biology classes at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, California. He went on to become a gifted student at the University of California, Berkeley before transferring to Harvard, where he received his medical degree and graduated cum laude. He then received his American citizenship before age 30. After completing his residency at the University of California, San Francisco—where he also obtained a postdoctoral fellowship in developmental and stem cell biology—he assumed his current post as professor of neurosurgery, oncology, neuroscience, and cellular and molecular medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
In 2011, he co-founded Mission:BRAIN, a nonprofit organization providing neurosurgical resources to patients, caregivers, and health care providers in underserved areas around the world. A consortium of medical professionals, suppliers, and volunteers from across the U.S., Mission:BRAIN conducts neurosurgical missions in Mexico, the Philippines, and other countries where health care is lacking.
In 2012, Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosa published his autobiography, Becoming Dr. Q: My Journey from Migrant Farm Worker to Brain Surgeon. The best-selling book details his journey from the tomato fields of Central California to the highest echelons of medicine in the U.S. and around the world. He is at work on a follow-up volume describing his day-to-day life as a brain surgeon at Johns Hopkins University.
Today, he performs 250 brain surgeries a year and leads cutting-edge cancer research. He has appeared on the award-winning ABC series Hopkins, NOVA, CBS News with Katie Couric and The Today Show, and he speaks regularly to students of all ages on the value of embracing careers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.
Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosa focuses on the surgical treatment of primary and metastatic brain tumors, with an emphasis on motor and speech mapping during surgery as well as in the treatment of patients with pituitary and skull base tumors using transphenoidal endonasal and minimally invasive surgical approaches. He has conducted numerous research efforts on brain cancer, receiving funding from the National Institute of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, among others. He is working on a method to use human fat cells to fight brain cancer.
Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosa has delivered keynote speeches to a variety of audiences including students, medical organizations, and business groups. He enthusiastically recounts stories from his life as a top brain surgeon and neuroscientist and how he picked up his sense of control in the operating room from the work he did picking tomatoes in the San Joaquin Valley.