School of Medicine, UCSD, Co-Founder, South San Diego Area Health Education Center

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Even while living away from San Diego, Dr. Arias founded a number of special projects in the region spanning several decades. His paradigm for looking was focused on serving educationally and medically under-served populations in South San Diego. In his capacity as the co-founder of the South San Diego Area Health Education Center, he worked under the guise of a number of faculty from the UC San Diego, School of Medicine to name just a few: Faustina Solis, Percy Russell, Nolan Penn, and Dean Robert Petersdorf.

In founding AHEC, Dr. Arias co-wrote a major grant funded to the UCSD School of Medicine by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. In addition he co-author annual successful grant submissions for four years of funding. The AHEC mandate is to improve the health professional practice environment of medically underserved communities in South San Diego by:
Assisting in locating and placing needed physicians, physician assistance, nurses, dentists and other health professionals and to serve as a liaison between South San Diego communities and the UCSD School of Medicine.

Dr. Arias realized the shortage of Spanish-speaking health professionals in South San Diego so he conducted a survey in Baja California Norte (mostly in Tijuana) that found a high level of interest among physicians in Mexico wanting to practice in the U.S. this led to the creation of a program to help them do so. Out of 156 Mexican physicians only 2 passed the medical exam in the U.S.

With these findings in hand, Dr. Arias contacted those physicians that did not pass the medical exam and asked them if they would be interested in becoming physicians assistants in the U.S. and the majority of them responded positively this finding led to Dr. Arias and two colleagues founding of the InterAmerican College in National City, offering primarily health professions (nursing) degrees.

Interesting to note is that AHEC offered newly graduated physicians the opportunity to reduce their student loan debt by working in medically under-served areas in South San Diego. One of the first physicians Dr. Arias hired was Sandra Daley who went on to become the Vice Chancellor of Health Sciences at UC San Diego.

Dr. Arias also collaborated with Dr. Leo Chavez and Dr. Wayne Cornelius at the U.S. - Mexico in conducting a massive survey in South San Diego that discovered that undocumented people from Latin America were not a financial burden on health care providers in South San Diego because they paid cash for services in order to avoid the police.

Original languageAmerican English
Media of outputOnline
StatePublished - 1997


  • Medical education
  • serving medically underserved regions


  • Social and Behavioral Sciences

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