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The Founders.

Who We Are


April 2012 

November 2014

April 2019

January 2022

June 2021

Informally co-founded in 2012 by three undocumented youth in the San Francisco Bay Area. PHD was adopted and became a project of Immigrants Rising..

PHD launched the first annual cohort of the Peer Engagement and Enrichment Program (PEEP), formerly known as Health Professions Advancement Program (HPAP).

Pre-Health Dreamers became its own fiscally-sponsored project of Community Initiatives.

PHD hosts its 1st Annual Conference "Revolutionizing the Health of Undocumented Communities".

PHD launches the National Community Coalition (NCC), a cohort of institutions committed to expanding their support and resources for undocumented individuals by addressing barriers and promoting systemic change.


Denisse Rojas, MD, MPP

Founder & CEO

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 delay treatment for illnesses and use free or subsidized health care. Through these difficult experiences, Denisse was inspired to become a doctor in underserved communities that advocates for all patients and is a leader in shaping health care policies.

Denisse was less than a year 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 school counselors could not offer guidance on her educational goals. 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 graduated from UC Berkeley with majors in Sociology and Integrative Biology in 2012.  That same year, Denisse 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 over 800 members in 42 states. Through Denisse’s leadership, the organization co-sponsored legislation to allow California licensing boards to award professional licenses to individuals regardless of immigration status, given all other requirements are met, and engage in institutional advocacy in partnership with other academic groups. She co-authored an article in Academic Medicine that provides guidance on considering DACA recipients for residency positions. As a result of PHD’s advocacy, more health professional programs will consider undocumented students for admission.

Denisse has also been a spokesperson for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that was created by then President Obama in 2012. Her story has been featured in CNN Money, National Public Radio’s Latino USA, and Forbes magazine recognized Denisse in its ‘30 Under 30’ most influential entrepreneurs in education. For her achievements as a New American and her potential to contribute to American society, Denisse also received the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans for up to $90,000 in support for graduate school.

Denisse completed her MD at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and her Masters in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She is currently an emergency medicine resident at Boston Medical Center. Denisse has devoted herself to a life of service through direct care, research, and policy to ensure that quality health care is accessible to all underserved communities and higher education is attainable for underrepresented minority students.

Co-Founder & Project Board Member 

New Latthivongskorn, MD, MPH

Founder & CEO

NEW LATTHIVONGSKORN is an immigrant rights & health justice activist, and a family & community doctor. After moving to the U.S. as a child, his family has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. Having experienced, first-hand, the alienation and confusion that immigrant families face in attempting to navigate health care systems in the U.S., he became interested with the idea of working to improve health for all marginalized communities. He is a graduate of University of California Berkeley, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health with a Masters degree in Public Health, and the first undocumented graduate from University of California San Francisco, in the Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved (PRIME-US). Outside of academia, his immigrant rights activism has varied from advocating for policies to expand access to higher education & health care, community-organizing with pre-health career students, and federal reforms. He served as a plaintiff in the successful lawsuit against the Trump administration’s effort to end the DACA program, and has been invited to meet with President Biden as the first guests in his presidency. Now, as a resident physician at San Francisco General Hospital, New continues to engage in work at the intersection of immigrant rights, health & medicine, and culture change.

He was named to 2017 Forbes' 30 Under 30 for co-founding Pre-Health Dreamers, an organization that works to support undocumented students pursuing health careers. He was named one of “25 Leaders in Action” by Asian Americans Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP), top “10 Asian-Pacific American Influences” by Buzzfeed. New has been recognized for his commitment to social justice and service: the 2017 Excellence in Public Health Award by the U.S. Public Health Service, as well as the UCSF Chancellor’s Award for Service and the Thomas N. Burbridge Award. He was the sole recipient of the Gold-Headed Cane for Humanism in his graduating class from UCSF School of Medicine, class of 2019. He is a co-recipient of the national Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare in 2021.

Family & Community Medicine, UCSF & Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital


Angel Ku, Ph.D.

Founder & CEO

Angel Ku is a Mexican born scientist in the field of precision medicine at Varian’s department of Global Translation Science. His passion to improve the lives of cancer patients has led him to investigate new therapeutic strategies for cancer. His expertise in systems biology has led to him combine both experimental and computational approaches for discovering novel cancer therapeutics. During his graduate and undergraduate career Angel organized with several student-led organization to advocate for access to health careers for undocumented students. He was a co-founder of San Francisco State University’s undocumented student organization and a member of Immigrants Rising Outreach Team. Outside his lab enjoy enjoys riding his bike through California’s beautiful scenery with friends and family.

Scientist, Dept. of Genomics & Precision Medicine

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