Last year, 7,308 students applied to UCSF medical school. 149 were accepted. But only one student in next year's class is undocumented and that's me. It's the first time UCSF has ever accepted an undocumented student.

My family came to California when I was nine. My parents worked at Thai restaurants 'til 11:00 pm every night. Whenever I tried to help the answer never changed: "Don't worry, and do your job." My job was to get an education.

Growing up, it never occurred to me to see a doctor. We had the immigrant mindset where life was about surviving, not living. We kept our heads down, worked, studied. Our health was secondary.

We had this big cabinet full of medicine we'd go to when we got sick. It was packed with pain killers, cold and flu medicine, ointments, some old antibiotics from Thailand.

My junior year we took my mom to the emergency room. Bleeding excessively, she fainted. She couldn't understand the doctors and they couldn't understand her. I translated, but wanted to do more for her. That's when I first thought: "I want to become a doctor."

A lot of undocumented young people want to go into medicine because the way we struggled with health growing up has got to change. But undocumented Californians like my family don't have access to the health care I'll be trained to provide. Without it, a minor ache or cough can escalate out of control and lead to the emergency room. That's an expensive substitute for regular medical care.

Sickness doesn't discriminate. We're your neighbors, your co-workers. Our kids go to school together. If we keep everyone healthy, we can keep California healthy.
That's why I'm excited about the "Health For All" bill introduced by State Senator Lara. No one should suffer or die from an easily treatable condition because of where they were born. Our system works best when everyone participates. That's the health care system I hope to work for when I graduate four years from now.

With a Perspective, I'm Jirayut Latthivongskorn.
Jirayut Latthivongskorn is part of a network of undocumented students pursuing careers in health care called "Pre-Health Dreamers."

  • Carlos Estrada

    Keep up the fantastic work, Jirayut (New)! Thank you for sharing your inspirational story of struggle and triumph. Thank you for fighting for health equity for all.

  • Another Mike

    This story both inspires and puzzles me. The inspirational part is obvious.

    When I was a kid we had to give copies of our immunization records to the school. Our local school district requires a report from a “health examiner” for admittance, including a shot record.

    How did Mr. Latthivongskorn meet these requirements, if he never saw a doctor as a kid?

    • Curious

      The “undocumented” are exempt from all rules that apply to the rest of us dumb taxpayers.

    • jurgispilis

      I appears the family used the ER as family physician.

    • Kay

      personal beliefs exemption

  • jurgispilis

    Illegal activity by such a family is unfair to those who play by the rules, and don’t overstay their visas. UC is a public institution committed to serving legal California residents.

    • Another Mike

      His family brought him here at age nine. Penalizing him because his parents broke the law would be unfair.

      • jurgispilis

        You comments missed the mark. In this case of blatant fraud and lawbreaking, nobody is being penalized, yet some are actually being rewarded. It send the wrong signal to both Americans and foreigners alike: “If you play by the rules, you are a sap.”

        • Madi

          But what is the blatant fraud and lawbreaking? What should he do? Go back to Thailand? Stay here but only work at car washes and restaurants, regardless of what contributions to our society he aspires to make? Or is it too late no matter what he does, because the crime was committed ten years ago and he SHOULD have said, “Screw you Mom and Dad, I’m going to play by the rules and live on my own here and Thailand!” when he was 9?

          • jurgispilis

            The blatant fraud and lawbreaking includes overstaying a visa, falsification of employment documents, driving without a license, identity theft, etc.

            Neither the author nor his his family have any legal right to remain in the United States. Can you imagine, we (the taxpayers) would be funding the education of a doctor who will be barred from practicing in the US! It’s absurd, and a waste of resources. And yes, the whole family should go back to Thailand. It’s a beautiful country that needs his talents.

          • Guest

            In reality, illegal immigrants, especially those who are qualified DACA, do pay taxes. What you are implying is that there needs to be a law that keeps all the record of law breakers for a family. To one extreme, in North Korea, there is a policy to send a criminal and all his or her related family members to labor camp for THREE generations. Is this what the US needs?

          • Madi

            Whoa, whoa, whoa. Three generations is nuts. He’s talking 1-2, tops.

          • jurgispilis

            I am implying no such thing. I don’t think we need a new law. All these family members are in the US illegally. They can not drive, work, fly, enter a federal building or courthouse, etc. Despite this, they are compelled to pay their taxes. The author alone may be covered by DACA, but that is only for 2 years, and does not pardon the crime – it only kicks the can down the road.

          • Curious

            The IRS has PAID billions of dollars to illegals who have paid zero tax.

          • Madi

            Nothing absurd about charging a 9 year old with identity theft. Or imagining crimes and calling them “blatant,” like you just did. How do you know he drove without a license? If we’ve opened this up to all immigrants and not just Jirayut, then okay.

            So you’ve got no problems convicting 9 year olds of crimes (and/or adults that committed crimes when they were 9 – crimes committed with the only alternative being losing your parents and becoming an orphan, or possibly just straight up dying). What about babies? If you can brush off any sympathy for a 9 year old criminal who decided NOT to sneak out of his parents’ house and disappear into the Thai jungle under cover of night in order to avoid being an American criminal, then what about those that literally don’t have the motor skills to stop themselves from committing crimes? You’re going to tell people that have been here since age 1 that they need to stop breaking the law and move to the other side of the world because they’re wasting your resources? What if you found out you were born in another country? I suppose you’d up and leave, yes, and stop wasting my hard-earned resources?

            The obvious disconnect between us is that you believe a child should be penalized for the crimes of a parent. I think that’s insane.

          • jurgispilis

            I believe a child should not be rewarded for the crimes of a parent. Otherwise, you only encourage lawless behavior. Being born abroad is not an issue. Being illegally in the US, however, is.

          • Madi

            “Rewarded” by being allowed to live here, and work, and be an equal human? I thought those things were rights.

            You’re just replacing “penalize” with “not reward.” But we’re talking about the same things. I don’t understand how you can criminalize existing where you were raised.

            Why shouldn’t an adult that was brought here as an infant have equal rights? You really want to be a country that kicks people like that out?

          • jurgispilis

            You got to draw the line somewhere.

          • Madi

            Yeah, you sure do. And you’re drawing it so we include, “Your parents are criminals, so you will be punished – excuse me, ‘unrewarded’ – exactly the same as them.” How about a bank robber that keeps his infant daughter in the car during the robbery, or better yet, in a baby bjorn? And what if the robber shoots someone? If you’re going to deport adults that were brought here as infants, shouldn’t you throw the book at that baby who was an accessory to robbery and/or murder? There’s no statute of limitations on murder. We shouldn’t be rewarding all the non-bank robbing, non-murdering babies out there by letting the guilty ones roam free and take up our college scholarships and doctor positions. Sorry baby, but you were there, you technically did it. You are a lawbreaker, so now you are punished. Had to draw the line somewhere. Can’t just let you get away with it and waste my resources.

          • jurgispilis

            Very funny, Madi, and an interesting analogy. I will definitely be on the looking for illegal alien baby gangs in the future.
            Getting back to this idea of “drawing the line”. Some of us are presented with the argument that these minors are brought to the US by their parents: both parents together as a single unit. Ok, I have no problem with that. But what if the child came with only the mom, who left her husband because he was abusive? What if the child came with only the mom, who left her husband because he lost his job and is depressed and not fun? What if the child came with an uncle? What if the child came by himself? What if the child came with a human smuggling gang? What if the child came as a “mule” with a drug cartel?
            Where do you draw the line? In which case do you grant amnesty?

          • Madi

            What point are you trying to make? A family with one parent doesn’t deserve the same rights as one with two? I can’t tell if you’re being more sympathetic or less sympathetic to mothers escaping abusive husbands and fathers. I honestly don’t get where you’re going with that. Obviously every family situation is different, but I don’t see what difference it makes when it comes to holding the child responsible for the actions of whatever adult brought them here. I’m talking about innocent children. And I do mean innocent. Also, I think I’m ready to let this go.

          • jurgispilis

            “Where do you draw the line?” That’s what we’re talking about. “Where do you draw the line?”
            Every resident of California, and apparently everyone else in the planet, has the right to attend UCSF medical school. But there are only 150 spots. I am not punishing an innocent child if he does not gain acceptance into UCSF medical school. The child is not responsible for the actions of whatever adult brought them here, but nevertheless suffers as a result of those actions. The fact that a child suffers as a result of where a supposedly responsible adult chooses to transport that child, does not say that I am punishing that child. But I would venture to propose that it can qualify as child abuse.
            So sorry to hear you are leaving this exciting forum. I will miss you.

          • Juarez

            I hear your concern jurgispilis, however, I don’t really hear any logical and/or effective way to deal with undocumented yet incredibly driven and talented students from your end.

            The author, like thousands of other undocumented students (or dreamers) had no choice as to how they arrived here. For many of them, their immigration status and the implications of it becomes appearant at a later stage in life. Jurgispilis, imagine being told at about age 15 that you can’t drive, vote, hold a job, or get a nickel for college because of a crime your parents committed?? (Oh, and please spare me the superman/superwoman bulls**t that you would self deport yourself, because we all know you wouldn’t! Especially after sitting in an American classroom for X amount of years, pledging allegiance to the flag and being indoctrinated to belief in the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)

            My sentiment is that the author has demonstrated exceptional devotion to pursue his passion for medicine, despite his unfortunate immigration predicament. To me, that shows tenacity, courage and commitment to serve the American public. What else would you want to see in the character of an individual aspiring to contribute to our society, Jurgispilis?

            And if your argument is that we shouldn’t integrate a talented student like the author into the fabric of our society because it “sets a bad precedent” or “encourages illegal immigration”, then I must question the effectiveness of your approach to solve the problem of immigration as the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. hasn’t come to a halt. So, in taking your approach to address illegal immigration, the illegal immigration problem doesn’t get solved, the author wouldn’t be able to apply his scientific talent (net economic & social loss to our society), and the science community would miss out on the author’s potential contributions (again, a net economic and social loss to our society). So, Jurgispilis, remind me again how your approach would make America strong???

            Jurgispilis, let’s FOCUS on finding SOLUTIONS to our social problems and not cling on to “precedents” that simply don’t hold. The truth is that we need an immigration reform plan that integrates the pool of highly qualified students so that they, along with our society can benefit. Jurgispilis, the question is: Will you be part of the problem here, or will you be part of the solution that moves this country forward??

            Your fellow compatriot

          • jurgispilis

            Incredibly driven and talented students will do well wherever they are.

          • Juarez

            Agreed. However, the point here is that these driven and talented student are here in the U.S. and are victims of archaic and ineffective immigration laws.

            Again, are we being efficient and effective in how we deal with the problem of immigration by taking on a “they did the ‘crime’ so they shall do the time” mentality?? Is this sort of mentality/logic even reasonable to apply to dreamers given the young age at which they were brought over to this country??

            Let’s think about this one, Jurgispilis.. Oh, and I’m also hoping you answer the questions I posted to you in my original message..

          • Curious

            The immigration laws are not “archaic and ineffective” – they are too lax and not being enforced. We should have a system like every other country that only allows people with skills and qualifications that we need that cannot be satisfied by citizens. No anchor babies, no chain migration.

          • jurgispilis

            “they shall do the time”.
            But there is no time to be done. The ‘punishment’ is merely removal from the country. There is no jail time to be done. The only situation where there would do jail time is when the individual refuses to leave. In this case, he is voluntarily remaining in jail, in detention. He can walk out of that prison anytime he wants. It is difficult to sympathize with those who remain in detention by their own choice.
            I will get to your previous questions. I hesitated to respond because it seemed to me you were joking.

          • jurgispilis

            @Juarez: My answers to your 3 questions:
            1. What else would you want to see in the character of an individual aspiring to contribute to our society, Jurgispilis?
            Answer: A desire to do the right thing and comply with the law.

            2. So, Jurgispilis, remind me again how your approach would make America strong?
            Answer: Now this is perhaps the most complex question of the 3. Lets’ establish what “my approach” is. Basically, I support federal statutes, i.e. the status quo. I do recognize there is a need for improvement and reform. And then there is the idea of connecting that immigration system to a strong vibrant nation – crafting an immigration system that contributes to a strong nation, rather than an immigration system that weakens the nation. The problem state that you presented.
            As far as qualities of a nation that would characterize it as being “strong”, I would include: healthiness of the population in life expectancy, high quality diet, low suicide rate, and general optimism; a vibrant economy which employs all who want to work, keeps pollution under control, uses resources in a sustainable fashion, and generates wealth; military forces that can defend the borders of the state and repel any foreign invasion; and lastly, preserve the favorable aspects of geography including things like water supply, forests, farmland/soil, mineral deposits, sunshine, rainfall, animals, plants, and ah, yes, people, etc.
            At about 320 million, the US is the 3rd most populous nation on the planet, after China and India. Our annual rate of population growth is definitely in the top 10, close to the rate of Nigeria, at about 1.1%. Europe, on the other hand, has a population growth rate of about .1% (point one percent). If you invest money at an interest rate of 1.1%, it will double in 50 years. Our population doubles every 50 years. In 1949, we had 150 million; 1968 200 million; 1990 250 million; 2001 285 million; 2014 320 million.
            On a macro level, world population currently exceeds 7 billion, has never in human history exceeded 1 billion until the 20th century, and is projected by demographers to stabilize at 9 billion or maybe 12 billion. Taken against the backdrop of a global climate rapidly changing in dramatic and unpredictable forms, this amounts to a perfect storm.
            Immigration is a voluntary federal policy. Many countries do not have immigration policies. In numbers, our immigration program brings in 1 million legally, and 1 million illegally. Combined with a birth rate of 1 million annually; we grow by 3 million annually. (I am rounding these numbers for arguments sake.) Compared with other nations, the US takes in more foreign settlers than any other nation – as much as all other nations combined!
            What should be the purpose of this voluntary federal immigration policy? Should it be so Saudi princesses have access to upscale shopping malls? Or should it enhance the 4 strong nation points – human health, vibrant economy, geographic and physical blessings, and military defense – I listed as defining a strong nation – your wording.
            If excessive immigration is having a detrimental effect on nation health, we should cut back. If excessive immigration is having a detrimental effect on the national economy and employment, we should cut back. If excessive immigration is having a detrimental effect on the military preparedness and our ability to defend ourselves, we should cut back. If excessive immigration is having a detrimental effect on the geographic environment (farmland, minerals, forests, animal species), we should cut back.

            But you might argue – we don’t have excessive immigration rates. We have the highest immigration rates in the world. That is a cold hard accepted unarguable fact. If any nation has excessive immigration rates, it is the US.

            3. Jurgispilis, the question is: Will you be part of the problem here, or will you be part of the solution that moves this country forward?
            Answer: Part of the solution

          • blah23

            Man.. you have no empathy at all don’t you? Legal or illegal… why would you judge someone based on their “status” but not with their character? I have friends who are undocumented and got accepted to Medical school. They were brought here in the U.S. when they were children. They are not qualified for financial aid. They are using private student loans. In fact, they are serving “YOUR” country by creating programs that would eliminate health disparities. AND Guess what? they go to Medical school not because they are money driven, but simply because they want to help low-income individuals, legal or illegal. They are smart. They have big hearts. Don’t judge them as a group. They are individuals. HUMAN BEINGS. Did I mention they pay taxes too? Seriously what is wrong with someone who just want to improve their lives and overcome poverty? Who knows, someday this people that you label “illegal” may one day save you from your death bed.

          • jurgispilis

            I sincerely doubt that, since they are unable to work in this country.

          • getyourfactsstraight

            DACA allows unauthorized individuals to work in this country legally. Please become more informed before stating such ludicrous and ignorant statements.

          • Skip Conrad

            How can they pay taxes if they are unable to work? Blah23? The human smuggling gangs have big hearts, too.

          • getyourfactsstraight

            In fact, DACA allows unauthorized individuals to work in this country legally. Please become more informed before stating such ludicrous and ignorant statements.

    • Allen

      Ethics>Laws. Slavery was legal but not ethical or humane…remember that history repeats itself.

  • Skip Conrad

    Under a Janet Nepalitano presidency, I fear an abandonment of the vision of an accessible, affordable, public institution training American kids for American jobs, for a global institution that caters to the world’s elite.

    We’ve lost our UC just like we’ve lost our Hetch Hetchy water. Sad.

  • Anne

    Wow. This is the kind of person we need to become a doctor! Thanks for sharing your story!

    • Kurt thialfad

      Unfortunately, one has to have legal status in order to be employed in the medical field in the US.

      • Another Mike

        A projected doctor shortage was one of the negative results expected from the ACA. By the time he completes his education, he should have no trouble getting sponsored for a visa.

  • ulalena

    Health care for all – education for all good luck to you Jirayut – my prayers
    I know you will do good things and maybe I get a chance to work with you at the hospitals or clinics . It will be an honor .

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