June 8, 2001
Volume XXXIV, No. 23

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UTHSC graduate inspired by family, earthquake

Photo of graduate Dr. Nan Clare, professor of pathology and senior associate dean of the Medical School (right), adjusts the academic hood of Luis José Acosta Mondragón while Dr. T. Kent Keeton, associate professor in pharmacology, looks on. Acosta received his M.D. degree at the Medical School commencement ceremony May 26.

Luis José Acosta Mondragón of El Paso grew up in Mexico City until age 13. He was in Mexico City during a devastating 1985 earthquake that killed thousands. Several relatives' homes were so badly damaged that they moved in with the Acostas for several months. The infrastructure of the city was badly damaged. His father, a physician in Mexico City at the time, was actively involved in administering medical assistance to victims of the disaster.

The same Luis Acosta joined 193 other graduates of the Medical School on May 26 as they received M.D. degrees.

Luis was 10 at the time of the earthquake. He helped his family donate clothes and household items to others in need. He said the 1985 earthquake inspired him to enter medicine. He is a graduate of Rice University with emphasis on biochemistry. He soon will begin his residency in internal medicine at The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque. He is interested in international public health, and perhaps working for organizations such as Doctors Without Borders or the World Health Organization during his career.

"I've been in the United States since 1988, when I left Mexico City to attend the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell," Luis Jr. said. "I studied there for five years, went to Rice University in Houston and then entered medical school in San Antonio. In 1993, my father moved to El Paso, where he has a neurology practice. My mother, Susana Mondragón, is living in Mexico City, working for the U.N. Environment Program as assistant to a training network for Latin America and the Caribbean."

Luis Jr. wants to become a gastroenterologist, his father said. He joins his father, Dr. Luis Acosta Sr., an El Paso neurologist; his uncle, Dr. Manuel L. Acosta III, a general surgeon in El Paso; and cousin, Dr. Jorge Acosta, a third-year general surgery resident at Thomason Hospital in El Paso, as physicians.

"Luis came from a family that really pushes forward," Luis Sr. said. "We give them no other choice but to have high expectations. This shows the Latino kids that they have to study. We tell kids that they can become professionals such as doctors or lawyers. The opportunity is there — they just have to take it."

Other Acosta children include Luis Sr.'s daughter, Susana, who has a master of computer animation degree from the California Arts Institute, and Manuel L. Acosta's son, Manuel IV, who is a federal defense attorney in El Paso.

Luis Acosta Sr. is secretary of the El Paso County Medical Society and will be president in 2003. He is a vice councilor on the Texas Medical Association (TMA) Board of Councilors.

Manuel Acosta, the graduate's uncle, is past president of the El Paso County Medical Society and served eight years on the El Paso Board of Health, including a term as president. He is a member of the TMA Political Action Committee and has been in TMA 25 years.

"All the Acostas are crazy about the medical profession," Luis Acosta Sr. said. "We hope this sends a message of success to Latino youth."


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