Carlos Arias’ journey into medicine was inspired by a lifetime as a patient.
Barely a month after arriving from Cuba with his parents in 1998, Carlos became gravely ill. The 8-year-old was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, a life-threatening infection that causes the brain to swell, along with hepatitis A, and systematic vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels that can restrict blood flow, resulting in organ and tissue damage.
He was in a coma for 18 days and spent 45 days in intensive care. When he awoke, he could not walk or talk. His right arm was paralyzed, his left eye was blind, and he had retrograde amnesia. Doctors were not optimistic, but Carlos fully regained his motor skills and sensory abilities.
Despite taking off a couple of semesters due to health issues including heart problems, an enlarged spleen, and a very serious condition that causes swelling of the kidneys and required two major surgeries, Carlos persevered in his studies. In 2014, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology and returned for a degree in psychology, graduating cum laude from FIU. He also volunteered with Ronald McDonald House, Relay for Life, Dance Marathon, and food drives. And he co-founded CURE, an organization that helps FIU undergrads improve their pre-health experiences. “Overcoming adversity defined my character and has led to my success as a student,” says Arias.
As a member of the Master in Physician Assistant Studies Class of 2018, Carlos continued to lead by example. He served as class president and is graduating in the top 10 percent of his class. And to top it off, he has been chosen his class’ WorldsAhead Graduate (WAG). According to the WAG website, these special students “are nominated by faculty members… [Because] their ingenuity, compassion, intelligence and courage set them apart from their graduating class.”
Dr. Felix Ley Ramos, assistant professor in the physician assistant program nominated Arias for the honor. “I have had the privilege of knowing, instructing, and advising Carlos since 2016,” wrote Ley in the nomination letter. “He is truly worthy of the designation ‘WorldsAhead’ scholar’.”
“Overcoming the adversity I’ve faced most of my life has defined my character and has led to my success as a student
As a WAG, President Mark B. Rosenberg will personally acknowledge Arias during the commencement ceremony and share his brief bio and photos. It will be an emotional and proud moment for Arias’ parents and abuela who will be there to celebrate the milestone with him. But that’s not all. Arias’ girlfriend Veronica Hernandez is graduating on the same day from the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences with a master’s in occupational therapy.