2021 Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare awarded to immigrant cofounders of Pre-Health Dreamers

This news article was also published on The Vilcek Foundation website here.

The Vilcek Foundation and The Arnold P. Gold Foundation are pleased to announce that the 2021 Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare is jointly awarded to Dr. Jirayut “New” Latthivongskorn and Dr. Denisse Rojas Marquez. The Vilcek-Gold Award is a shared initiative of the Vilcek Foundation and the Gold Foundation that embodies the missions of both organizations: The award celebrates the contributions of outstanding immigrant professionals to humanism in healthcare in the United States and recognizes the positive impact of accessible, compassionate care on public health.

Dr. Denisse Rojas Marquez, left, and Dr. Jirayut “New” Latthivongskorn, recipients of the 2021 Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare

Drs. Latthivongskorn and Rojas Marquez receive the 2021 Vilcek-Gold Award for their leadership in advocating for diverse and inclusive healthcare with a supportive path to the profession accessible to immigrants. Studies have repeatedly shown that healthcare with diverse clinicians and an environment of respect and compassion leads to better outcomes.

Drs. Latthivongskorn and Rojas Marquez, along with Angel Ku, established Pre-Health Dreamers (PHDreamers), a collective organization that provides information and resources to young immigrants who want to pursue higher education and careers in healthcare. Both are also frequent speakers and commenters on immigration policy in the United States. Dr. Rojas Marquez provided testimony at a 2017 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Dr. Latthivongskorn was a plaintiff in the case that brought DACA before the Supreme Court of the United States in 2019, Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California.

Dr. Denisse Rojas Marquez represents Pre-Health Dreamers at an event sponsored by Street Level Health, providing her perspective as an undocumented immigrant without health insurance and sharing the urgent need to provide healthcare to all immigrants, regardless of immigration status. (Photo courtesy of Denisse Rojas Marquez)

“Humanism, like medicine itself as Osler said, knows no boundaries or borders,” said Dr. Richard I. Levin, President and CEO of the Gold Foundation. “We are honored to partner with the Vilcek Foundation to recognize the groundbreaking contributions of Jirayut ‘New’ Latthivongskorn and Denisse Rojas Marquez, both young doctors who have helped illuminate the way forward for so many others in advocating for a more fair, a more diverse, and thus a more humanistic healthcare system.”

Dr. Latthivongskorn is a resident physician at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center; he completed MD at the University of California, San Francisco, and his MPH at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Dr. Rojas Marquez is a resident physician at Boston Medical Center and holds an MD from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City and an MPP from Harvard University. She is also a Gold Humanism Honor Society member.

Drs. Latthivongskorn and Rojas Marquez ’s commitment to advocacy in support of undocumented immigrants is compelling and personal. Both physicians immigrated to the United States with their families when they were children— Dr. Latthivongskorn from Thailand when he was 9 and Dr. Rojas Marquez from Mexico when she was less than a year old. Due to their young ages at the time of their arrival in the United States, both were eligible to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA); both are currently DACA recipients. As adolescents, they witnessed their families encounter obstacles to accessing healthcare as a result of their immigration status; as a result of these experiences, they sought careers in healthcare and public health so that they could provide the kind of care to others that their own families struggled to receive.

“The advocacy of Jirayut ‘New’ Latthivongskorn and Denisse Rojas Marquez has offered immigrants greater access to education, opportunity, and representation,” said Dr. Jan Vilcek, CEO and Chairman of the Vilcek Foundation. “As DACA recipients and young medical professionals, their leadership is grounded in their own experiences. We recognize New and Denisse as the joint recipients of the 2021 Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare to highlight the outstanding contributions that immigrants—including undocumented immigrants—are making to our communities, our healthcare system, and our country.”

Dr. Jirayut “New” Latthivongskorn participates in a rally organized by ASPIRE (pan-Asian undocumented youth-led organization, based out of San Francisco’s Asian Law Caucus), in 2013. The rally was designed to pressure ICE to grant reprieve on removal proceedings for one of our member’s family — and it was successful. (Photo courtesy of New Latthivongskorn)

The 2019 Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare was presented to whistleblower Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha for her advocacy to address the lead-poisoning epidemic in Flint, Michigan. In 2020, the Vilcek-Gold Award was bestowed upon Dr. Vivek Murthy—19th and currently 21st Surgeon General of the United States—for his multi-faceted approach to addressing the opioid crisis, and for his advocacy and support of human- and community-centered care.

Dr. Hanna-Attisha reflected, “In a year like no other, our young healthcare leaders have bravely and tirelessly stood up for justice, equality, democracy, and opportunity. Leading the revolution, New and Denisse have paved the way for countless immigrants to not just dream, but to realize, a career in health care.”

The Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare includes an unrestricted cash prize of $10,000, and a commemorative heart-shaped trophy. The award will be presented to Drs. Latthivongskorn and Rojas Marquez at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Annual Meeting in November 2021.

Learn more about the Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare.