When he was a boy, Raymond Aguilar, M.D. ’17, joined his parents in the strawberry fields. The elder Aguilars had come from Guadalajara as migrant farm workers; neither had graduated from high school. Twelve-year-old Raymond was disappointed when he found that two weeks of hard work in the hot sun earned him only $19.
“My mom said, ‘If you don’t want to do this, then you’d better do well in school,’” he says.
And he did. Although Aguilar hadn’t planned to go to college, a high-school math teacher saw his potential and encouraged him to take science classes, where he became fascinated by the human body. After a summer internship at the University of Washington, Aguilar knew he wanted to be a doctor.
At the UW School of Medicine, Aguilar did a rotation in Othello, Wash., which confirmed his decision to specialize in family medicine.
“I wanted to help people like my parents,” he says. “My mom and dad never wanted to go to the doctor. They were scared to have to pay for it. They’d have interpreters, and sometimes that wasn’t the best experience for them. I wanted to be the doctor who speaks the language that patients need.”
Aguilar says that scholarship support through college and medical school made all the difference in his education. “Medical school is already stressful, so even a little bit goes a long way,” he says. “It lets us know that there are people out there who, even without knowing us, are supporting this journey.”
After his residency at Sea Mar Community Health Centers in Marysville, Wash., is complete, Aguilar wants to stay in the area, helping Latino patients and serving as a mentor.
“Working with the Latino, Spanish-speaking community is what drives me and makes me feel good when I go home each day. Like I made a difference,” he says.