EDINBURG – In a conversation between Hidalgo County Precinct 4 commissioner Joseph Palacios and his predecessor Oscar Garza, politics were put aside for the greater good of San Carlos, a community on the east side of town that has witnessed a profound growth since 2008.

Roads were created, a Boys & Girls Club was established, a community center was erected and with a partnership between government and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine a new Area Health Education Center (AHEC) has opened.

Last fall the medical school received a five-year grant worth $3.75 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop three AHEC.

“To get to this point is a true blessing,” Palacios said. “There is no way I could have done it without my team, our community volunteers impacted me on how we can make an impact on this community.”

The AHECS are intended to serve in three ways. Help increase access to primary healthcare in rural and underserved areas. Develop and enhance education and training networks within communities, academic institutions and community-based organizations. Teach medical and students in other health-related disciplines about the social determinants of health and health disparities.

The AHEC will be operated by professional healthcare staff, faculty and students of the school of medicine, school of nursing and the college of health professions.

Palacios knows his term is less than two months from being over, and Commissioner-elect Ellie Torres will take over Jan. 1. In an essence Palacios could not see a better fit to pass the baton to the new commissioner knowing she will do right by the community of San Carlos.

“If our hearts are in the right place, and the mission will always be focusing on the needs of our community, then great things like this happen,” Palacios said.