Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) grad Mounir Contreras Cejin, MD, ’22 could hardly believe it when he learned he’d matched at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. It was the culmination of a dream that took courage, stamina, and resilience. Growing up in a foreign country as an uninsured, marginalized, undocumented, and underrepresented individual allowed him to understand people with similar struggles.
Committed to patient care for the underrepresented
He arrived in the U.S. from Mexico at age 13 with his father, hoping for a better future. Settling in inner-city Dallas, Texas, his father found work as a butcher for a local meat market. “I had to learn a new language and adapt to a new country. It was far from easy, but my father, and later, my mother and sister, were determined to work hard to improve our situation,” says Cejin. He remembers a tragic work-related injury where his father was rushed to the emergency room. “The nurse and the doctor gave us the reassurance and comfort we needed. I was only 15 years old, but that day I made a promise to myself that I would emulate the same grace and thoughtfulness that the doctor and nurse showed us and that wherever life took me I would always extend my hand to aid marginalized and vulnerable groups.” The experience inspired Cejin to find a way to serve.
Working as a butcher and carpet cleaner, he graduated from an at-risk high school. While holding multiple jobs, Cejin attended community college, then transferred to the University of Texas at Dallas to complete a biology degree. Life got even busier when he got married, became a U.S. citizen in 2016, and had a child. Still, Cejin had medical school in his plans. “I was nervous about getting into med school; feeling like I had a lot to prove can be intimidating. But once I got into RUSM, I received a lot of support from my family, and I was determined to make the best of it. I was lucky to find a roommate who became a great friend; we tackled medical school together. We would cover lecture notes, filled up whiteboards, and quizzed ourselves daily. Working together, we both got on the Dean’s Honor Roll in the first semester. In fact, I was able to do that for all the semesters I attended. I became a peer tutor and an anatomy teaching assistant, which gave me more confidence as I progressed through the curriculum. RUSM gave me everything I needed to succeed.”
A love for emergency medicine
After completing his core clinical rotations at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in New York City, Cejin traveled to multiple sites including Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield, California, and Ascension Genesys Hospital in Grand Blanc, Michigan to earn his Standardized Letters of Evaluation (SLOE). “Emergency medicine is a competitive specialty requiring a well-rounded application. My rotations in emergency medicine further solidified my choice and I was able to perform exceptionally well in them,” says Cejin “I had my sights on the University of Texas Southwestern for residency, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy for an International Medical Graduate (IMG) to match there. I was able to prove that it can be done through discipline, determination, and a deep desire in pursuit of your goals.”
Working in emergency medicine was a continual theme in Cejin’s life and his paramount goal. “It has a special appeal to me because, in the emergency room, no one is neglected, and no one is turned away. We see anything and everything. You have to solve problems on the fly and be ready for anyone who walks through the doors. You see many patients without insurance who have advanced disease. My job is to provide compassionate care to whoever comes to us.”
During one of his emergency medicine rotations, he encountered a man who had just arrived from Mexico and had fallen off a ladder at a construction job. “I recognized the hesitancy and fear in his voice when answering my questions. It was the same feeling my father and I experienced years earlier. I asked where he was from, and, to my surprise, I learned we were from the same town. It did not take long for me to build rapport. As we reminisced about our childhood home, I could see he trusted me and felt at ease. Emergency medicine is more than the rush of adrenaline that comes with trying to solve complex problems, it’s also about serving people with compassion, understanding, and reassurance.”
Returning home to help others like himself
Cejin was thrilled to match at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, because he feels Dallas is home. “I love this city. There is a large Hispanic population here. I am excited to be the doctor I never imagined I could be, in the city that I love and for those who need me the most. I can speak in their language, know their culture, and understand their struggles.”
Now beginning his residency, Cejin is excited to serve at a hospital which serves a region with over two million people, with thousands of patients from diverse backgrounds coming through their doors yearly.
Cejin says he was never meant to walk a traditional path. “Today I look back and wear my journey like a badge of honor. I know that my true success is not in what I have accomplished but the distance I have traveled. I love medical education and I want to be at an academic center, continuing to do emergency medicine and maybe critical care. I’m excited to begin my medical career and know that my training will make a positive difference in the lives of patients.”