American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Immigrant Child and Family Health Executive Committee Member
Immigrant health advocate
Industry: Health care
Key previous position: Film-company founder
Education: University of Texas Health Science Center
Notable fact: Started medical school at age 50
Dr. Marsha Griffin did not expect that she would be working on issues related to immigrant children’s health. But then again, the Texas-based pediatrician didn’t expect to be a doctor at all: She didn’t attend medical school until she was almost 50 years old.
“I think the issue found me,” she said of her advocacy for immigrant kids. “I had no idea years ago that’s who I would be working with, but I chose to come back to the border and I worked for over a decade at a federally qualified community health center.”
“We served pretty much the poorest members of the community. … It was that work, and seeing what they had to struggle with and their challenges, that really was a part of it,” she added.
Griffin decided to give medical school a shot while studying social justice at a seminary near Minneapolis. “I got in. It was a miracle,” she said.
In the past several years, she has become a national voice on issues at the U.S. border, including problems affecting the health of immigrant children. She routinely provides her perspective and concerns on U.S. immigration policy to national media outlets as a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“They will have obesity. They will have suicidality. They will have substance abuse. They will have problems, and it will be because of us,” Griffin told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC in June 2018, after the Trump administration separated children from their families at the border.
In her other capacities, including her position as president of Community for Children, Inc., Griffin is focused on building up infrastructure and health services to assist immigrants crossing the border. And she wants to bring attention to conditions in Mexico.
“We also have to provide knowledge and stories about what’s happening in Mexico, in northern Mexico, where they’re being sent back to and they’re in tent cities,” Griffin said. “It’s going to start getting cold down here … and they’re in little pup tents like you would take to go camping.”
“It’s my job to help others shine a light on what’s going on down here and how it’s affecting people’s health, especially children’s,” she said.