Growing up in the suburbs of Phoenix, Brandon Ortega would spend each summer at his grandfather’s ranch in Chihuahua, Mexico, the same way his father did. These annual visits, encouraged by his parents, taught him the value of hard work and to appreciate the many opportunities he had in the U.S.

The first in his family to attend college, Ortega graduated from Occidental College, playing football all four years. He took a year off before attending medical school to help with the family business, driving a semi-truck for more than a year to pay down student loans.

While at the Keck School, Ortega participated in the Dean’s Research Scholars Program, taking a full year to pursue research under Jay Lieberman, MD, chair and professor of orthopaedic surgery, which included exploring gene therapy to heal bone defects.

As a culmination of Ortega’s past experiences — his work on the family ranch, plays on the football field, work with his hands and experiences in the lab — he gravitated to orthopaedic surgery, appreciating the work ethic and opportunity to be a part of a greater team.

Ortega matched into his first choice — orthopaedic surgery at Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center — and is eager to provide service to a community facing many socioeconomic and health disparities.

Whenever faced with adversity, Ortega recalls his grandfather’s words, “no te rajes,” never give up. He’s confident that due to his education at Keck School and his strong upbringing, he’ll successfully navigate any challenges faced as he embarks on this new chapter in his life.

— Cynthia Smith