Denisse Rojas Marquez envisions a health care system where no individual is excluded. Growing up as an undocumented immigrant, she and her family had limited health care options and as a result, they would often delay treatment for illnesses and use free or subsidized health care. Through these difficult experiences, Denisse was inspired to become a doctor in underserved immigrant communities that advocates for all patients and is a leader in shaping health care policies. Denisse was 10 months old when she and her family left Mexico for the United States. As a resident of Fremont, California, her family found new opportunities that enabled Denisse and her two siblings to attend college. Her path, however, had many roadblocks. Due to her status, Denisse was ineligible for financial aid and was often discouraged that no career counselor could offer guidance on her aspirations. Moreover, Denisse was painfully separated from family members who, as a result of stalled policies on immigration, left for Canada. Denisse remained steadfast in her aspirations and co-founded a national organization called Pre-Health Dreamers (PHD) to provide advising, resources and advocacy for other undocumented youth like herself. In just a few years, PHD has reached 800 members in 42 states. Through Denisse’s leadership, the organization co-sponsored legislation to allow CA licensing boards to award professional licenses to undocumented professionals and engaged in institutional advocacy with other academic groups. As a result, over 50 medical schools will consider undocumented students for admission.
In 2015, Denisse proudly became the first undocumented student to attend the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai where she is working towards her MD and in 2016, she was awarded the Soros Fellowship. Denisse will devote herself to a life of service through clinical care, research, and policy to ensure that quality health care is accessible to all immigrants.