When Frank Placencia, MD, MS’18, recently walked across the stage in Omaha to graduate from Creighton, he wanted the world to know that his pride in accomplishment was directed toward someone else – his father.
Using a phrase inspired by a song lyric from Hamilton, he tweeted: “My dad first came to the U.S. 51 years ago, working at a meatpacking plant in Omaha. Today we return for my graduation from Creighton with a master’s degree in health care ethics. Because #Immigrants #WeGetTheJobDone.”
“My parents are my heroes, especially my dad, because they have overcome so much,” Placencia says.
The new Creighton grad, who is a neonatologist at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, enrolled in Creighton’s online degree program to pursue more education in health care ethics without uprooting his family.
“My dad was born and raised in a small village in the highlands of Mexico,” he says. “His education goes no further than about a second-grade level.”
But despite that, Francisco Placencia made sure his two sons had possibilities that surpassed his.
The elder Placencia found little opportunity as a young man in Mexico; family in Nebraska invited him to head north to work at a meatpacking plant.
“He appreciated the chance to work, and put in long hours,” Placencia says. “After a few months, though, he was deported and returned to Mexico. Later an uncle in California told him a company in Fresno was hiring, so he headed there. He settled, met my mom and made a life, and they had my brother and me.”
His dad would rise at 4 a.m. six, sometimes seven, days a week to do fieldwork. He worked with tractors and eventually moved up to manage the tractor fleet. He became a U.S. citizen.
“My dad tells a story about me as a kid riding on a tractor with him and saying, ‘When I grow up, I want to be like you. I want to drive a tractor.’ He says he stopped the tractor, looked at me, and said, ‘No, I do this so that you won’t have to,’” Placencia relates.
“He has such a strong work ethic and sense of family,” Placencia says. “Church and family were everything to him.”
Placencia is a physician who now also holds a master’s degree, and his brother is a successful business executive who holds two master’s degrees and served two tours overseas in the U.S. Army.
“We seem to be at an inflection point in our history,” Placencia says. “We seem to be questioning what immigration can offer. Lost in all of the rhetoric is that people do not uproot their lives on a whim. It would behoove us to appreciate not only what immigrants have done, but what they can do for our country.”
Reflecting on the fact that one of the founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, was an immigrant, Placencia says, “Immigration is part and parcel of who we are as a nation, a fundamental part of our country’s soul. It’s a core part of our story. If we forget that, we risk losing who we are as a country.”