Erick Juárez has aspired to be a doctor since he was a child. His parents, who work as agricultural laborers, serve as role models for him.
Juárez told TODAY Parents, “I was able to translate that work ethic from the fields to the books.”
To honor their sacrifice, the 29-year-old resident physician dedicates each degree he obtains to the fields where his parents have labored since their arrival in the United States.
“I wanted to pay tribute to my parents by displaying them to my friends and the rest of the world,” Juárez said. “What better way to show the world how far we’ve come than to show how far we’ve come since they came to this wonderful country with nothing but their hard work ethic and the clothing on their backs?”
Loreto and Maricela Juárez, the oldest of ten siblings, immigrated to the United States from Mexico in the 1980s in search of a better life.
“They were two of the approximately 3 million beneficiaries of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act,” Juárez stated, adding that Loreto and Maricela were both granted amnesty after unlawfully crossing the US-Mexico border, allowing them to stay in the United States.
They grew vegetables in North Carolina and picked oranges in South Florida before joining a migrant farmworker camp outside Bainbridge, Georgia, surrounded by tomato fields.
“My parents came to the United States with nothing to lose and everything to gain,” said Juárez.
Juárez was reared outside of Attapulgus, Georgia, as the second of five children. In 2010, he became Bainbridge High School’s first Hispanic valedictorian.
Juárez earned a Bachelor of Arts in neuroscience after attending the United States Military Academy at West Point. He remarked, “I was the first person from my community to graduate from Harvard College.”
He went on to Augusta University’s Medical College of Georgia, where he earned his M.D. in Spring 2021. Juárez began his neurology residency program at UCLA Health in June 2021.
“I am ready to obtain a white-collar job and begin helping the different communities I represent, especially the unsung heroes of the epidemic — farmworkers,” Juárez said, adding that he intends to return to Georgia.
One of Juárez’s siblings is an electrician, while the others are a future teacher, a future engineer, and a future healthcare professional.
“I know my parents are pleased — of me and my four siblings,” Juárez said, “despite not completely understanding most of the things I’ve done in life.” Juárez said his graduation from medical school was a little step for him, but a significant stride for his family, as he looks to the future.
He captioned a jubilant Instagram photo, “It’s as much, if not more, a victory lap for them as it is for me.” “I couldn’t be more proud of them.”