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In their own words: Matilde Castiel, Naheed Usmani share personal immigration stories

‘When people come to this country, they come for a better life’

By Sarah Willey and Bryan Goodchild

UMass Medical School Communications

noviembre 15, 2018

Matilde Castiel, MD, associate professor of medicine and commissioner of Worcester Health and Human Services, and Naheed Usmani, MD, professor of pediatrics, shared their personal journeys of coming to the United States at the debut of the UMass Immigrant Stories series on Wednesday, Nov. 14. The program aims to capture the stories of faculty who have faced barriers and challenges coming to the United States as immigrants, and to highlight their contributions.

Dr. Castiel left her native Cuba at age 6 with her older brother as part of Operation Peter Pan, a mass exodus of Cuban children to the United States between 1960 and 1962. She didn’t speak any English when she arrived and was placed in foster care until her parents could make it to the United States.

“It was an awful experience. I didn’t know how to speak English,” she told the audience in the Faculty Conference Room at UMass Medical School.

She held back tears when she spoke of the challenges that immigrants face today.

“When people come to this country, they come for a better life.” she said. “We’re hard-working people who give a lot back to society.”

Dr. Usmani, who immigrated from Pakistan at age 23 after following in her mother’s footsteps and finishing medical school, explained that she did not come here out of desperation, but in the pursuit of knowledge. She had a fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. She started at UMMS in 1999.

While their individual paths to the United States were different, they both realized—by listening to one another—how much their stories mirror one another.

“In hearing your story, we have many similarities. We both have family who started in one part of the world. And yet, here we are sitting next to each other. These are some of the amazing stories,” Usmani said.

Learn more about their journeys in the video.

Related story on UMassMedNow:
UMass Immigrant Stories debuts Nov. 14 with Matilde Castiel, Naheed Usmani