Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa: Neurosurgeon, Advocate, Immigrant
On Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa’s resume, the first line is “migrant worker.” A little below that are titles like “neurosurgeon,” “Chair of Neurologic Surgery,” and “Co-founder and President.” After immigrating to the United States from Mexico in order to chase his dreams Quiñones, or Dr. Q as many of his patients refer to him as, has made it his mission to do everything possible to improve brain cancer treatment, ensure access to care around the world, and cultivate meaningful relationships with his patients.
So what work has Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa done? Let’s dive in.
Photo courtesy of Mayo Clinic.
Growing up in Mexico
Quiñones grew up near Mexicali, Mexico, in a small farming village. He did very well in school and graduated with his teaching license at 18. After graduating, Quiñones decided to go to California to live and work with his extended family.
Literally jumping over the border fence- not knowing any English and with no money in his pockets- Quiñones was determined to chase his dreams and follow the opportunities in California.
Working in the U.S.
Living in Fresno, California, Quiñones worked different jobs over two years, including welding, painting, and picking cotton. While putting himself through community college to learn English and working as a welder for a railroad company, there was an accident on site that left him unconscious and in the ICU.
“That accident taught me that I wanted to care for other human beings,” he said to Brain and Life, “to do that, I realized I would need to resume my education.”
In 1992, Quiñones attended the University of California Berkley to study psychology on a scholarship. He went on to study at Harvard Medical School, inspired to become a doctor by his grandmother, who was a healer in Mexico.
He graduated from Harvard cum laude and as an American citizen. Post-grad, Quiñones completed his internship and residency at the University of California San Francisco.
A Leader in Neurosurgery
In 2005, Quiñones became a Professor of Neurosurgery and Oncology, Neurology, and Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Director of the Brain Tumor Stem Cell Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He’s currently Chair of Neurologic Surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, where he’s passionate about forging genuine connections with his patients.
When he’s not working with patients or teaching his students, Quiñones is working on finding a cure for brain cancer, or at least searching for a way to make treatment more tolerable.
On top of his work in the lab, classroom, and operating room, Quiñones is passionate about providing healthcare in underserved areas of the world. In 2011 he co-founded mission:brain (Bridging Resources and Advancing International Neuroscience), a non-profit organization meant to bring neurosurgical care to patients all around the world.
“I had no idea where my life was going to lead,” Quiñones told PBS, “I just knew—as I tell young people who are at the stage today which I was back then—that it is okay sometimes not to know where you’re going to end up. What is not okay is not to give your best at the present. And I always knew that if I gave my best, things were going to one day turn around.”