My name is Alejandro Javier Carrasco, and I’m a first-generation, Mexican-American, second-year medical student that loves mangonadas, and that grew up living for the weekend carne asada. My undergraduate background is in biological sciences. I received my M.P.H. in May of 2020 from George Washington University—the Milken Institute School of Public Health. I recently finished my first year of medical school and am now one year closer to becoming a Latinx physician, leader, and advocate para mi gente. However, none of this would have been possible without all my family and friends - (you know who you are, muchas gracias a todos) - this is how I got here and why you can too.
I come from a small, rural town in Texas composed primarily of grasslands, oil fields, cattle ranches, and with a population of 8,000 people. It thrives off the hard work and culture of Mexican migrants, including my family. Growing up as the son of a hardworking, selfless, teen mother, I was constantly being taken care of by my abuelita and various tias throughout the day (shout out to all the strong, beautiful women that raised me, look at the man you made me), and it was this non-traditional upbringing that instilled in me the importance of my Hispanic identity, culture, and community. I knew that as long as I stayed true to myself, my people, and where I came from, I could ultimately achieve anything. This is the very notion that has carried me throughout my life, despite the many obstacles I have faced, and it is the very notion that continues to carry me throughout my journey of becoming a Latinx physician.
The utmost influencing factor of my decision to pursue medicine stems from my mom’s diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus in 2010. My first experience in a hospital was the most frightening time of my life. My only parent was succumbing to complications of her illness and because I did not fully understand her ailments or know if she was going to get better, the hospital was a place of terror. Teams of physicians worked for weeks attending to my mom. They took their extended time and empathy in explaining her disease process and care to me. I felt like I was in a place where science and compassion heal. With intensive treatment, my mom’s condition improved. I left the hospital with the desire to be at the forefront of my mom’s care and inspired to make the same impact for other people as their physician.
Throughout high school, I never had any direction of what the next steps were in getting into college, let alone medical school. I just knew college was next. I can still hear my grandparents and mom tell me, “Tienes que ir al colegio mijo, para que no andes trabajando asi como nosotros.” I remember having to navigate college applications, FASFA, taking the ACT and SAT not having a clue what I was doing, but knowing what it meant not only for myself but for my family in moving forward. I did this all while working in the oil and gas industry to help provide for my family, caring for my mom and younger siblings, and maintaining my grades and extracurriculars as an average small-town teenage kid. There were so many days I didn’t know if I was ever going to make it out of Perryton.
May 11, 2013: I graduated from high school with honors and in the top 10% of my class.
I made it. I had gotten accepted into college at West Texas A&M University and knew from here on out that if I wanted to be a physician, it was time to get to work and this was my starting point. Up to this point in my life, at 18 years old, I still had never met a Latinx physician, let alone here I was telling myself I was going to become one. To be quite frank, I still remember the doubtful looks I would get from my college roommate and college classmates when I would tell them this is what I was going to do and this is who I was going to become.
Even worse, was my pre-med advisor. From the first moment I met her, she treated me differently. She was unwilling to help me and she did not want me to succeed. On several occasions, without reason, she would tell me that I needed to reconsider my career goals and that medicine was not for me. However, never once did I listen to her because I knew that I had it in me - I knew who I was, where I came from, and what I had already endured to be there. Without a pre-med advisor or any mentors to guide me, I had to navigate surviving college, balancing volunteering, finding physicians to shadow, and figuring out what the MCAT was all on my own. Like most things in my life, without having many resources or a single clue what I was doing, I signed up for the MCAT my junior year of college not knowing much of what to expect, I scored a 488.
May 14, 2017: I graduated college with a 4.0 GPA and a B.S. in biology and a minor in chemistry.
After graduating undergrad, I got a job working night shift at a local hospital and mowing yards during the day to make my rent and bills. I knew I needed to do better on the MCAT, so I reassessed and studied harder when I wasn’t working and on minimal sleep. I studied for 7 months, took the MCAT two more times, and made the same score on both attempts, a 497. Although, it was an improvement from a 488, I knew this was still not even an average score. At this point, I had no idea what my next move was. My girlfriend at the time (now fiancé), Lindsay, had just gotten accepted into the Pathologists’ Assistant program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, so we packed up what little we had, our two dogs, and moved to the east coast.
Although my dreams of becoming a physician were on hold for the meantime, my determination to become a physician only grew stronger. I owe a lot of that to Lindsay for keeping me grounded. During this time, I decided to pursue a masters in public health and attended George Washington University - Milken Institute School of Public Health in Washington, D.C. I don’t know about y’all, but if you have ever been to D.C., there is something powerful about being there in general, let alone as a first generation Latinx during the Trump administration—¡Viva Mexico!
Throughout my time at GWU, I worked to ensure that for the upcoming medical school application cycle, I could demonstrate what I was truly capable of as an applicant, despite my MCAT scores. I excelled in my courses, got inducted into Delta Omega (one of the most prestigious national, public health honorary societies), and completed an internship at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Without retaking the MCAT for a fourth time, I applied to medical school for the very first time. Thank god for credit cards because I applied to 30 medical schools and interviewed at 3.
October 30, 2019: The day I got the call I had gotten accepted into medical school at Marian University—College of Osteopathic Medicine.
The day I got this call is something I will always remember, and I know it will be something you’ll remember forever too - I couldn’t stop crying. I knew my life had just changed forever; I now knew I was going to be a Latinx physician. After regaining my composure enough to speak without crying, I proceeded to call everyone in my family to let them know, we had finally made it, we now have a seat at the table too.
August 17, 2020: My first day of medical school as a Latinx student doctor, during the middle of a pandemic.
Today, people of color only comprise approximately 10% of all practicing physicians in the United States. TEN PERCENT. Of this 10%, only 6% are Hispanic or Latino. It’s time to push this standard. My first day of medical school marked the day that I continued to defy the systemic barriers and constructs in place that work so hard against us. Inequalities and inequities may exist, but we will not allow them to continue existing. As Latinx en medicina, we must continue to advocate para la comunidad and para la raza. We must stick together and lean on each other because together, we are mighty, and can truly effectuate change in a system that wasn’t built for us.
May 7, 2021: My last day as a first-year medical student.
As I sit here writing this having just finished year one, I am overcome with extreme gratitude at how far I have come and humbled by the opportunity to share my story. My name is Alejandro Javier Carrasco. I am a first-generation, Mexican American from a small-town with the dream of becoming a physician, leader, and advocate. The path to getting here was never easy and it was never laid out for me, which I know is the case for most of us. But I created a path and I feel such a sense of pride in knowing what it means not only for me but for us all.
I hope anybody that took the time to read any part of my story can relate it to something they are currently going through or have gone through. As a Latinx, oftentimes the journey feels impossible and I hope that if you take anything away from this, it’s to know and remember that no matter where you are on this journey, if I got here, you can and you will too - it’s only a matter of time.