The Story Behind The Rise Of ImmiHealth

Joaquin Luna was an undocumented, Mexican immigrant, who committed suicide at the age of 18. He graduated from Benito Juarez-Abraham Lincoln High School in Mission, Texas, and was ranked 89th out of 467 students in the senior class. He was a smart, aspiring civil engineer: he created some architectural renderings of an apartment complex as a part of his school project. Following his high school graduation, Luna applied to the University of Texan - Pan American. He wanted to attend this university because it was close to his home and inexpensive. Unfortunately, Luna was also distressed by harsh immigration laws and the Senate's failure to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act in 2011, believing that his undocumented status would prevent him from opportunities for good employment or support for a family. Diyer Mendoza, Luna’s brother, told the Washington Times, "he was depressed real bad," and that he would often share his concerns with his brothers and sisters. On Nov. 25, 2011, the day after Thanksgiving, Joaquin put on a maroon shirt and a tie, went to lie down next to his mother, and told her he was sorry he was never going to be the person he wanted to be, relatives said. Then he went into the bathroom, put a handgun underneath his chin, and pulled the trigger. Joaquin was accepted to the University of Texas-Pan American, but he never found out because he died before his admission became official (The New York Times, 2011).

Although Tirth Patel legally immigrated to the United States from India in 2020, he was able to relate some parts of his struggle to Joaquin Luna's story. Tirth felt infuriated and distressed by Luna's death. Due to being an immigrant in the states, Tirth could not exploit various opportunities that would make his college experience more affordable. Even after entering college, Tirth had a hard time navigating through resources, making connections, and asking for help. Tirth also stutters while speaking, and his failed attempts to maintain a college-work balance further intensified his struggle. Deeply saddened by Luna's death, Tirth spent months contemplating how he can ease the struggles of other immigrants/refugees through the knowledge, skills, and experiences that he has gained while studying in college and helping immigrants with their non-health and health-related needs. Tirth and his family have been through situations where they encountered difficulties while navigating and affording healthcare in the United States, which is more expensive than the healthcare back in their home country, India. While volunteering for and interacting with immigrant populations through clinical and non-clinical ways like ESL (English as Second Language), Tirth realized that these groups need help in accessing healthcare at lower costs. Fortunately, in countries with large immigrant populations, like the United States, there are multiple free/affordable health resources. However, talking to young and adult immigrants has made Tirth understand that they are either not aware of the free/affordable healthcare due to being new in the country they immigrated to or accessing such resources is difficult for them due to their language barriers, financial problems, lack of emotional support, absence of proper documents, and other factors.

Ultimately, Tirth founded ImmiHealth in the fall of 2022 with the help of mentorship in social entrepreneurship. Just in a few weeks, Tirth recruited students from the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Eastern Michigan University - all of whom were moved by Joaquin's story. ImmiHealth believes that access to proper healthcare assistance, back in 2011, could have reduced Joaquin Luna's depression and saved his life - he would be a civil engineer today.

ImmiHealth is a non-profit platform that focuses on easing the struggles of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in healthcare by offering a health-technology platform, which connects these groups to valuable health education and resources and decreases their medical costs, ultimately improving their experience navigating healthcare in foreign countries like the United States. Down the road, ImmiHealth aspires to simultaneously offer a community network and support, enabling migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers to socially connect and help each other. Although ImmiHealth does not provide patient-health professional interaction, its platform efficiently bridges the gap between migrants and free/affordable resources in healthcare. ImmiHealth envisions healthy migrant populations by educating and informing them on healthcare resources so that they can continue chasing their dreams.

Learn more about Joaquin Luna's story using the links below.