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Several pictures of doctors who are featured on the Local Legends web site

MEET LOCAL LEGEND: Cecilia Rosales, M.D.

Picture of Cecilia Rosales
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Cecilia Rosales, M.D.

“As a child, I discovered the world of medicine through reading. “Chirpas,” a book in Spanish, first piqued my interest. The main character was a young doctor in the most rural and poor communities of Mexico. I was 10 but too shy to share my newfound passion with my parents, siblings or friends. I did not feel "smart enough" and did not know anyone that practiced medicine, nor was I ever encouraged by anyone. Growing up, my family did not have health care and paid for services out–of–pocket and only in emergencies. In high school a core of friends also had an interest in medicine, but I always kept my desire secret. However, my interest was always in helping people help themselves and after college, I spent two years administering a social service program. These two years gave me the experience, maturity and courage to go to medical school, where I soon discovered my niche—public health!”


Raul M. Grijalva



Along the hot, parched, seemingly endless border between the United States and Mexico, Cecilia Rosales is considered an invaluable asset to the public health community in both Arizona and the neighboring Mexican state of Sonora.

“She is an inspiration to women, especially Hispanic women and, most importantly, to all border residents,” praises one avid supporter of Rosales' nomination as a Local Legend by Representative Raul M. Grijalva [D–AZ–7].

As Chief of the Office of Border Health of the Arizona Department of Health Services, she is responsible for coordinating and integrating public health programs to identify, monitor, control and prevent adverse health events in border communities. Her personal and professional backgrounds are deeply rooted in the US —Mexico border, uniquely suited to her role.

She has lived on both sides of the border most of her life, trained as a physician in Ciudad Juarez and as an epidemiologist at the University of Arizona, and worked with county, tribal and state government. As a result, she has developed close personal ties throughout the community which, complemented by her passion and enthusiasm for the most pressing border issues and the people they affect, have helped her to make a significant impact on bi–national border health.

For example, Rosales has been instrumental in building the infrastructure and carving out an important role for the "Oficina Binacional de Salud", established to meet the needs of and deal with the issues of border health in both states. She also represents the Department on the Health Services Committee of the Arizona—Mexico Commission [A–MC], set up in 1959 to strengthen cross–border public health collaboration, among other things. Thanks to her leadership and support, a trauma center was set up in Nogales, Arizona, which is supported by both states as well as Tucson Medical Center, Holy Cross Hospital and University Medical Center, as well as the A–MC.

Major border health efforts Rosales is involved in are the Border Infectious Disease Surveillance [BIDS] project, a network of selected clinical sites to monitor for infectious disease; "Healthy Gente", which outlines a health promotion and disease prevention agenda through the year 2010 for the US communities bordering Mexico; the US—Mexico Border Diabetes Project, a five–year collaborative team effort to determine prevalence of diabetes and develop corresponding bi–national prevention and control programs, and the Bi–national Tuberculosis Health Card to ensure coordinated referral of patients between both health systems, continuity of care and completion of therapy of TB patients migrating between Mexico and the US.

Before joining the Office of Border Health in 1997, she was an executive consultant for the Arizona Department of Health Services Office of Environmental Health, responsible for conducting community health evaluations and consultation, exposure investigations, community outreach, and environmental health education programs in southeastern Arizona and along the border with Sonora.

Prior to this, she managed the epidemiology section for the Pima County Health Department.



Named Manager, Epidemiology Section, Pima County Health Department, Tucson


Becomes Chief, Office of Border Health, Division of Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services




Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez, Escuela de Medicina, Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico



Sub Specialty

Public Health