Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare awarded to immigrant cofounders of pre-health dreamers


IMAGE: The 2021 Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare is awarded to Dr. Jirayut New Latthivongskorn and Dr. Denisse Rojas Marquez.
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Credit: The Vilcek Foundation

NEW YORK, June 2, 2021–The Vilcek Foundation and The Arnold P. Gold Foundation are pleased to announce that the 2021 Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare is 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 healthcare professionals in the United States; the award also recognizes the positive impact that accessible, humanistic, and compassionate care has on public health.

Latthivongskorn and Rojas Marquez receive the 2021 Vilcek-Gold Award for their leadership in establishing Pre-Health Dreamers (PHDreamers) with Angel Ku. PHDreamers is a collective organization that provides information and resources to young immigrants who want to pursue higher education and careers in healthcare. They also receive the award in recognition of their advocacy in support of undocumented immigrants in the United States. Both have spoken publicly on the humanitarian impacts of immigration policy, and about the value of programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). In 2017, Rojas Marquez provided testimony at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in support of the DACA program, and Latthivongskorn was a plaintiff in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California–the case that brought DACA before the Supreme Court of the United States in 2019.

Latthivongskorn is a resident physician at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center; he completed his doctor of medicine degree at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and has a Master of Public Health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Rojas Marquez is an incoming resident physician at Boston Medical Center and holds a doctor of medicine degree from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City and a Master of Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Latthivongskorn and Rojas Marquez’ commitment to advocacy in support of undocumented immigrants is compelling and personal. Both Latthivongskorn and Rojas Marquez immigrated to the United States with their families when they were children–Latthivongskorn from Thailand when he was 9 and Rojas Marquez from Mexico when she was less than a year old. Due to their respective ages at the time of their arrival in the United States, both were eligible to apply for 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 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 are making to our communities, our healthcare system, and our country.”

Dr. Richard I. Levin, president and CEO of the Gold Foundation, said: “Humanism, like medicine itself as [William] Osler said, knows no boundaries or borders. 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.”

The 2019 Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare was presented to 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 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.

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 Latthivongskorn and Rojas Marquez at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Annual Meeting in November 2021.

Read more about the Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare at the Vilcek Foundation.


The Vilcek Foundation

The Vilcek Foundation raises awareness of immigrant contributions in the United States and fosters appreciation for the arts and sciences. The foundation was established in 2000 by Jan and Marica Vilcek, immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia. The mission of the foundation was inspired by Jan and Marica’s respective careers in biomedical science and art history. Since 2000, the foundation has awarded over $5.9 million in prizes to foreign-born individuals and has supported organizations with over $5.3 million in grants.

The Vilcek Foundation is a private operating foundation, a federally tax-exempt nonprofit organization under IRS Section 501(c)(3).

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation was founded in 1988 with the vision that healthcare will be dramatically improved by placing the interests, values, and dignity of all people at the core of teaching and practice. The Gold Foundation champions humanism in healthcare, which the foundation defines as compassionate, collaborative, and scientifically excellent care; the foundation embraces all, and targets any barriers that prevent individuals or groups from accessing this standard of care. The Gold Foundation empowers experts, learners, and leaders to create systems and cultures that support humanistic care for all.

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation is a public not-for-profit organization, a federally tax-exempt organization under IRS Section 501(c)(3).

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