Growing up in San Francisco’s tough Tenderloin neighborhood gave Jorgio Castro a daily lesson in how people’s lives are hurt by inequities in housing, education, and access to decent health care.
His parents were immigrants—his father from Bolivia and his mother from the Philippines—who struggled to survive on his father’s hotel bellman’s salary. Castro’s home for his first 16 years was a rent-controlled studio apartment on Geary Street. Walking to school meant passing by prostitutes, drug dealers, and drunks—and started him thinking about the circumstances that landed them there.
As an undergraduate, he endured the stress of living without health insurance when a debilitating muscle condition forced him to take two years’ leave from college.
“I wasn’t in school, and I wasn’t working, so I didn’t have insurance,” he says. “It was pretty intense being sick and seeing how much of a challenge it was to get health care.”
That experience, coupled with extreme difficulty coordinating his mother’s health care needs, motivated him to go to law school and find a way to work in health care policy.
After internships with an Indiana congressional representative and California Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, Castro enrolled at UC Hastings. He looks forward to classes in the health sciences concentration. His intention is to one day apply evidence-based methods to public health policy. He wants to help people who live in low-income neighborhoods like the one he grew up in and ensure our health care system covers everyone. “We have to start doing what works,” he says.
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