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Health

Disney planning movie about undocumented Mexican who became top U.S. neurosurgeon

The hands of the Mexican doctor, Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, that today perform surgery to save lives, once harvested tomatoes when he came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant. Jorge Ramos interviewed "Dr Q" on Al Punto about an upcoming movie on his life.
10 May 2016 – 12:16 PM EDT
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When Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, then aged 19, decided to cross the border illegally between Mexico and the United States in 1987 he could have had no idea that his American Dream story would one day become a Disney movie.

He was caught by immigration, sent back to Mexico, but immediately crossed the border again.

"I had that appetite, my parents had very little," he says. That's how he reached the San Joaquin Valley in northern Fresno, California, and began working as a farmer harvesting tomatoes and cotton.

Today, aged 48, after studying at prestigious universities and having become a successful neurosurgeon, Disney and Brad Pitt have decided to bring to the big screen the story of the story of how a young man from Mexicali made it it in America.

"It's a story equivalent to that of Cinderella: an immigrant who comes here to the United States with nothing: no education, no money," said Quiñones, known as "Dr. Q," in an interview with Univision's Jorge Ramos, broadcast on the show Al Punto.

Quiñones would go on to study at the the University of California, Berkeley, as well as Harvard, becoming director of brain tumor surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, before his appointment this year as chair of Neurologic Surgery at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.

Excerpts from Al Punto:

His greatest fear as an undocumented man: being invisible

He remembers what his life was like without papers, fearing he would be captured and deported. "What little I made - $3.15 an hour - I would send back to my parents in Mexico. Besides that, I had the fear of being invisible. I think that's the fear that many immigrants have," he said.

Jorge Ramos: How did you go from being invisible to being one of the most visible Mexican immigrants in the United States?

Dr. Quiñones: I was given the opportunity to work, get educated and eventually become a neurosurgeon. It all starts there. Then you immerse yourself, encounter the people who gave you a hand, with people who believe in you. That's something we do not talk about, we do not discuss it, but it is very important: to believe in people, believe in immigrants.

Donald Trump's comments about Mexicans

JR: Have you ever felt discriminated here in the United States?

Dr Q: Yes, we feel it sometimes. People think that because we have an accent we think with an accent. It hurts my heart to hear those comments. I notice how they say the fence between Mexico and the United States is going to be bigger and are screaming that Mexicans will pay for it, as if we were demons, as if we were all criminals, and therefore, this is a dagger that goes straight to the heart.

JR: Then, what is your answer to Donald Trump?

Dr Q: My answer is to let people like you and me who are working hard, day after day, not just taking care of patients, doing science, but also being role models for young people. The way I answer is plain and simple: write more articles, do more research, try to find cures for cancer, try to take better care of my patients.


On surgery ... and the actor who will play him

Quiñones estimates that in the last 10 years he has performed more than 2,500 surgeries and removed more than 2,000 tumors. "People cannot believe that I remove tumors through the nose, I do it with very small cameras, like science fiction," he said.

It's not been announced who will play the role of Dr. Q in the movie, although it is rumored that it could be the Mexican actor, Demian Bichir. "I have no idea, but Demian has been very interested," he said.

JR: Do you feel that despite everything you've accomplished, this film that will be done about your life, the lives you've helped save, that at any given time you can lose everything again?

Dr Q: Sure, sometimes I feel like I'm living a dream. And sometimes I have nightmares that I have lost everything ... that I left medical school, that I do not have a job, that I’m caught by immigration, I have those dreams, those nightmares of when I ran. I remember when I was working in the fields and would see the immigration patrol cars, and I remember hiding and burying myself in the ground, in the mud. It’s the insecurities that one has that sometimes helps to keep you fighting and get ahead, it's all you can do.

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