When he was five years old, Carlos Estrada Alamo ’17 traveled with his family from his native Guanajuato, Mexico, to Seattle, Washington. His family arrived filled with hope for the future in the land of opportunity, but without the benefit of immigration documents.
“I’ve always had to find ways to navigate through, over, or under the challenges in front of me,” Estrada says. Instead of stopping when things got tough, he simply found other ways around the obstacles in his path.
Growing up, Estrada had seen that limited access to health care and a fear of interacting with the health care system were barriers to greater opportunity for many immigrant families. He saw this firsthand while working in a community hospital.
“People would come in with complicated chronic conditions with roots in their social and economic histories, but the care we could provide just treated the most superficial symptoms,” he says. “We weren’t doing anything to change the trajectory of their health.”
Estrada came to HMS with a recently acquired permanent resident status, sponsored by his wife. He was seeking a place where he could work with and learn from people who are focused on the wider view. To support his studies, Estrada received a 2014 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans.
The challenges of learning the basic science and clinical skills necessary to become a physician is daunting even without the additional layer of trying to understand the intricacies of economics and human systems, says Estrada.
“We’re so focused on microscopic details, yet you also need to see how the pieces fit together so you don’t lose sight of the question that matters the most,” he says, “which is how do we best preserve our body—this fragile biological machine—in order to live life to the fullest.”
Image: John Soares