Dr. Christian Arbelaez has faced lots of barriers. He fled Colombia to Miami, FL, with his family when he was 10 after his parents received a threat to kidnap him. When the family moved to Houston, TX, he found himself in a rough neighborhood where drugs and gang violence ruled, but his parents kept him out of trouble. “I often went with my mom to help her clean the houses,” says Christian. “Because of the discrimination I saw my parents endure, I learned the importance of education; it’s the great equalizer.”
Because neither of his parents went to college, higher education wasn’t on his radar, but thanks to his high school anatomy/physiology teacher who encouraged and helped him navigate the application and scholarship maze, he was accepted. Financial aid was always a big concern, but the Hispanic Scholarship Fund made a huge difference in his ability to continue his studies.
In 1996, Christian attended Houston Baptist University, graduating with a B.S. in Biology. He received his M.D. degree in 2000 from the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX; got his Masters in Public Health from Harvard School of Public Health; and did his residency in Emergency Medicine at Brown Medical School in Providence, RI, where he also became chief resident.
Today, Christian is assistant residency director of the Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine Residency Program and associate director of the Office for Multicultural Careers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) in Boston. He plans to return to Colombia to set up an exchange program with Harvard and key doctors in medical universities there.
Despite overwhelming barriers, Dr. Christian Arbelaez’s story teaches us that with hard work and dedication we can overcome them.