America, the beautiful, the land of opportunity! That’s exactly what young Carlos Herrera believed growing up in Mexico City. All around him everything he heard and saw was about the United States and what a great country it was.
“We were constantly exposed to American goods, cartoons and TV shows,” Herrera said. “I noticed how the United States was way ahead when it came to science. Both scientific and medical programs always showed how good life was becoming in the U.S. and as medicine progressed, the Americans’ quality of life got better. By the age of 16, I knew I had to be a doctor and I knew I wanted to go to the United States and attend medical school.”
The oldest of three, Herrera followed his conviction that America was the place where dreams could come true and began searching options for colleges. At 18, Herrera had the grades, and with $20 in his pocket and his father by his side, off to Houston he went.
“When we crossed into Laredo, my dad and I went to McDonald’s after hearing it was the best restaurant.” Herrera laughed at the memory. “When I tasted that Big Mac with a strawberry shake, I fell in love with this country. It tasted like freedom. It tasted like America.”
Herrera attended Rice University where he met and married the love of his life. Finding a job at the Baylor College of Medicine in the Howard Hughes Institute at the Department of Molecular Genetics, Herrera was thrilled to be a part of this new field of study – the dawn of the human genome project, genetic engineering and cloning.
“That helped me a lot and I knew I was ready! I AM going to go to medical school, period! That’s what I thought.”
Because he was convinced that the best doctors were in Houston, he attended the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. It was the moment he delivered his first baby during his third year of medical school that he knew where his passion lay.
“I knew I wanted to do OBGYN. Women are the stronger sex, the most interesting entities as humans come,” Herrera said. “Their system is fascinating, from the chemistry to the anatomy.”
During that same year as he completed a rotation through MD Anderson in cancer, he was reminded of his earlier work in research. He realized his love for the field and went on to receive a fellowship in gynecological oncology from MD Anderson in Houston.
Wanting to make a difference in this world, Herrera exchanged his successful practice for the Valley as Edinburg’s first full time gynecological oncologist. Building his team of radiation oncologists, a medical oncologist for the chemotherapy, an intensivist to watch over his patients after surgery. He now knows he’s making a difference daily.
It has not been an easy road for this passionate, uplifting, optimistic, caring physician, but it’s a road he would take all over again.
“If you want it, you can get it, but you have to try. Nothing is going to come free. It probably will not be a straight line – it may be a big labyrinth…but it’s there.”