Becoming Dr. Q: My Journey from Migrant Farm Worker to Brain Surgeon

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“This is a spell-binding story of a champion who harnessed the power of passion and dogged determination to triumph over adversity. Be prepared to laugh, cry and to come away enlightened not just about the human brain and its miraculous capacities but also about the human heart.” —Venus Williams, author of Come to Win

"Ever since I first heard Dr. Q’s story, my main question was: how does a migrant farm worker with no money and no English overcome the odds and pursue his aspirations at the highest levels of the medical field? Wow—not only is it the stuff of which fairy tales and Hollywood movies are made, but it’s also much needed prescription for the soul.” —Chris Gardner, author of The Pursuit of Happyness

“When I first met Dr. Q, I thought he had an angel watching out for him—defying death more than once and overcoming the odds of class and racial discrimination. After reading his truly inspirational memoir, I can say that Dr. Q doesn’t have an angel. He is simply one of us—a human being who chooses to believe in the capacity of people. And now, every time I see an ‘invisible’ undocumented immigrant, I see a potential brain surgeon. This is a book about humility, being a dreamer and the power of esperanza—hope.” —Maria Hinojosa, award-winning NPR/PBS anchor and author of Raising Raul and Crews

"Becoming Dr. Q is a book that should be read by all highschoolers and college students--it's about how to overcome hardship, about how to believe in our heart's hope, about not allowing your dreams to be co-opted by mediocrity. This should be a handbook for never giving up on your dreams, and if followed, the world would become a greater place for peace, respect and love. Read it—laugh, cry, share in Dr. Q's magnificent journey!" —Jimmy Santiago Baca, author of A Glass of Water

Becoming Dr. Q is a gem of a book—an amazing journey of a young man who entered the United States at age 19 as a non-documented migrant farm worker. Through brilliance and hard work, he gained entry to the top-rated Harvard Medical School. Now at Johns Hopkins, he is recognized as a world-renowned neurosurgeon. It was a pleasure to know Alfredo when he was a trailblazing student at Harvard. Everyone who reads this book will be enriched by his inspiring story.” —Alvin F. Poussaint, MD, Harvard Medical School

“The life of Dr. Q is a testament to the power of poverty to motivate social ascent, of intellectual prowess to scale academia’s heights, and to the power of altruism to give back through the most highly developed medical treatment and creation of new knowledge, through mentoring the next generation, and through his own unique family.” —Joe L. Martinez, Jr., Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley

“Quite simply, Dr. Q is a hero to many people in the Hispanic community. He went from the farm fields in California to the most advanced operating rooms in the country. He earned $3.35 an hour cultivating tomatoes and chili peppers in the San Joaquin Valley. What makes his journey unique is that the same hands that picked vegetables are now touch the brains of his patients and saving lives. He did, in just one life, what usually takes two or three generations. I can’t think of a better example of what an immigrant with ambition and dedication can do in this great country of opportunities. He is, no doubt, a real hero.” —Jorge Ramos, Senior News Anchor, Univision News

“This is the most amazing success story you’ll ever read. Be it fiction or non-fiction, there is not another book out there that competes with the rags to stitches tale of Dr. Q. If you are an illegal, Mexican, migrant farmer, it’s hard enough to make it from paycheck to paycheck in America, let alone from paycheck to crew supervisor to community college to medical school to brain surgeon. Really, the only thing more amazing than how far he has come, is how far he is likely to go. Who better to find a cure for cancer than a man who knows no obstacles? If I were an immigrant to this country looking to find my way, or a young person looking for motivation, or anyone looking for inspiration, this book would become my bible.” —Steve Hartman, CBS News correspondent

“I used to think that Superman was an American who went by the name Clark Kent. Now I know that he is a Mexican-American who goes by the name Dr Q. Read it to believe it.” —Katrina Firlik, MD, author Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside

“Even as a little kid, Dr. Q dreamed really big dreams, and no matter what the obstacles, he never gave up. I know firsthand that if you don’t dream it, you can’t become it. Now as a man, not only has he become it, but even more importantly, he is helping others to realize their dreams. Young people around the world will identify with and be motivated by Dr. Q’s story. This book is a slam dunk! Rock on, Dr. Q! Rock on!” —Jason McElwain, author of The Game of My Life

“This is a poignant and timely story that needs to be told. Dr. Q is a heroic and resilient man, whose odyssey should make it more difficult for pundits and others to demonize immigrants from Mexico and Central America. He goes far beyond his obvious technical abilities as a surgeon and demonstrates what an exemplary human being he is—modest, intelligent, and compassionate.”

—Paul R. Linde, MD, author of Danger to Self: On the Front Line with an ER Psychiatrist

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Editorial Reviews

Sgvtribune - Luis Torres

“The real-life story of Dr. Alfredo Qui ones-Hinojosa is so amazing and seemingly unbelievable that your first reaction is to think it's a Hollywood movie script. . . . But it's true.”
Kirkus Reviews

Renowned neurosurgeon and neuroscientist Quiñones-Hinojosa's life story is as unlikely as it is inspiring.

Born into a Mexican family perpetually teetering on the edge of poverty, the author's origins were anything but auspicious. Intelligence, imagination and a grandfather who believed that "hard work, honesty, and a good heart"—along with a healthy dose of charm and charisma—allowed Quiñones-Hinojosa to see beyond the difficult realities that defined his life.Economic circumstances forced his family to become migrant farmworkers for one summer in California; but for the author, going north "had a feeling of destiny" about it. Risking "injury, incarceration and even death," he eventually returned to the U.S. on his own by jumping the border fence between Mexicali and Calexico. To survive, Quiñones-Hinojosa held a variety of menial jobs from tomato picker to fish-lard scraper to stockyard welder.Education saved him and illuminated his path: After earning his associate's degree, he won a scholarship to UC-Berkeley, where he decided on a career in medicine. A fellowship to Harvard Medical School allowed him to pursue his dream and define himself still further as a brain surgeon and researcher. "From my earliest childhood, I had used my hands for everything from pumping gas to fixing car engines," he writes. "[N]ow I could use [them] help patients heal." The personal sacrifices that the author has been forced to make along the way prevents this story of professional success from reading like a fairy tale.

A passionate hymn to the power of the American Dream.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520271180
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2011
  • Pages: 328
  • Sales rank: 654,103
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, MD, is an Associate Professor of Neurosurgery and Oncology at Johns Hopkins University. In addition to directing the Brain Tumor Surgery Program, Dr. Q leads the Brain Tumor Stem Cell Laboratory. Named one of the one hundred most influential Hispanics in 2008, Dr. Q was also selected by Popular Science magazine as one of their Annual Brilliant Ten. Dr. Q has extensive publications in the medical field and is the lead editor for the upcoming edition of Schmidek and Sweet’s Operative Neurosurgical Techniques.

Dr. Q graduated cum laude from Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in neurosurgery at the University of California, San Francisco. On the award-winning ABC series Hopkins, his was the lead episode. Along with appearances on such shows as NOVA, CNN with Sanjay Gupta, CBS news with Katie COURIC, NBC’s The Today Show, as well as on National Public Radio, Dr. Q has been featured in a variety of newspapers and magazines.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: Seeking Terra Firma

PART I. Stargazing
1. Starry Nights
2. Faraway
3. The Kaliman Maneuver
4. Lessons from the Fields

PART II. Harvesting
5. Courting Destiny
6. Green Eyes
7. From Harvest to Harvard
8. In the Land of Giants
9. Question the Rules and When Possible Make Your Own
10. Brainstorm

PART III. Becoming Dr. Q
11. Hopkins
12. Gray Matter
13. Seeing the Light
14. Finding the Steel in Your Soul

Epilogue: When the Sun Comes Up

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 14, 2011

    Very Highly Recommend!! A must read!

    This book reads like a well written novel, but is a TRUE life story. This is the most inspirational autobiography I have ever read! It's an autobiography that demonstrates powerfully ALL the principles for SUCESS, even in the face of great difficulties and with few material resources! Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa should be commended for sharing his amazing life story with the world!! It truly "should be read by ALL high schoolers and college students". My wife & I gave copies to several of our friends & relatives.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 30, 2011

    A most read!!!

    The story of Dr. Quiñonez-Hinojosa is one of the most inspiring accounts ever. Becoming Dr. Q will inspire anyone to be the best in any chosen path.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2011

    a truly inspirational story

    I enjoyed this book cover to cover being a high school student who heard about Dr. Q's story. It made me appreciate how fortunate and to the extent many of us take for granted the american dream that is right in front of us with endless potential. A great read for anyone who needs that extra boost of inspiration to realize that their dreams are possible with dedication and passion.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 21, 2011

    Amazing story about an amazing man. A must read!

    I loved this book. I met Dr. Q in December of 2009 when he performed surgery on my son for a removal of a brain tumor. He was so compassionate and treated my son as though he were the only patient he had at that time. I knew a little about how he came to America but had no idea of all the trials he went through to get his citizenship and to fulfill his dream of becoming a doctor. He is so
    dedicated to his profession and hosts a get-together with former
    patients every year so he can remain in touch with them. Dr. Q is
    remarkable and his story is something everyone should read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2012

    Dr. Q story

    Amaising book, it make me cry at times. As I was reading the story I was remembering some episodes of my life. I admire Dr. Q not only because he has suffer descrimination an economic disadvantages, but because he has overcome those obstacles and more. He is an excellent human been looking for not less than excellence on all he does. En hora buena hermano, te mereces toda la gloria. With love and admiration, Mr. Q.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2012


    In 12th grade english we were to do a ethnography and my group picked brain surgeons and so i picked this book for my research. this book was very knowlageble in helping me with my project. it showed me how this little boy of a poor family with big dreams of being a supper hero became a brain surgeon after his familys hard strugles i deffinitly recommend this book it was prety good.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2012

    Great Book

    DR. Q Its an inspiration to everyone.

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  • Posted February 9, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    This book is great.This book is really interested and once you start reading it you cant stop reading it. I recommend this book to everyone but i highly recommend it to teens especially if you come from mexican roots you will be able to understand how everything is possible ! MUST READ THIS BOOK !

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 25, 2011

    Who Paid For Doctor's College

    Who paid for a migrant worker's college education at Berkley and Harvard? Did a migrant worker receive a "free" college education in California using a taxpayer scholarship paid by a plumber or electrician who could not afford to pay for their own college? Business success is often dependent on obtaining credit or funding to start a business. Giving a free college education to a migrant worker in one state is not fair to a natural citizen of another state who may have to compete with an illegal immigrant who received a free college education paid by taxpayers in another state. Indiana amd Georgia provide free college for high school students but North Carolina does not. A Georgia citizen can move to North Carolina with their free Georgia college education and take a job a North Carolina citizen can not obtain without a college education.

    0 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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