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Monday, January 21, 2019

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Humberto ('89) and Eileen Monge Humberto ('89) and Eileen Monge

Giving Back for Nearly Half a Lifetime

Humberto Monge (’89) has supported dozens of students with financial need.
By Coleen L. Geraghty

“Because of the opportunity San Diego State University gave me, I thought giving back to help students in need was an important thing I could and should do.”

Humberto Monge was aboard the U.S.S. Acadia in the middle of the Pacific Ocean when he received a letter that changed his world.

The communication was an acceptance letter from San Diego State University, welcoming him to the Class of 1989 and opening the door to his eventual career as a physician assistant on the transplant team at Stanford Medical Center.

Growing up in Louisiana, Monge never thought he would go to college. He enlisted in the Navy right out of high school. An aptitude test uncovered a talent for medical science, which led to Monge’s assignment as a hospital corpsman—a medical specialist who provides battlefield care to stabilize wounded soldiers. He later became a surgical technician in naval hospitals.

With encouragement from the surgeons he assisted, Monge began to imagine a career in the health sciences field. He took college courses at sea, and toward the end of his enlistment, he applied to SDSU.

“I was so focused on doing well that I made the dean’s list every semester,” he recalled.

Monge went straight from SDSU to the 18-month Physician Assistant Studies Program at Stanford University, among the top 20 programs in the country. Over the past 25 years, he has worked with Stanford Medical Center’s transplant team and earned several accolades, including the Mary M. Wallace teaching award from the Stanford School of Medicine and the inaugural National Advanced Practice Provider Award from the American Society of Transplant Surgeons. In 2013, he was asked to present the keynote address to the graduating class of physician assistants at Stanford.

Connecting with students

Although Monge has lived in the Bay Area since 1989, his Aztec roots go deep. For several years after graduation, he and a college friend made small annual contributions to a scholarship fund for students with financial need. The friend discontinued giving, but Monge and his wife, Eileen, maintained their annual donations. Recently, they also made a significant planned gift to the university.

“Because of the opportunity San Diego State University gave me, I thought giving back to help students in need was an important thing I could and should do,” Monge said. “What I enjoy most are the letters I get every year from the scholarship recipients. They echo the theme of my early life—working full-time and trying to make ends meet. Those are the things that connect with me.”

Steps to greater success

Monge’s role as physician assistant involves a hefty amount of education, and that’s his favorite part of the job. He teaches medical students about surgical procedures and lectures students in the physician assistant studies program.

He also created a program at Stanford that gives students opportunities to rotate through various medical and surgical wards, including in the veterans’ and children’s hospitals. Those experiences prepare students to be more successful in the workplace, he said.

“Honestly, I’m enjoying my life,” Monge said. “Things are constantly evolving in my field. Our twins are starting high school and our oldest son, a senior, is thinking about applying to SDSU.

“The university has been very good to me. Because they have made a point to thank me over the years, I have never felt that I’m just another one in the crowd.”