Dr. Helda Pinzon-Perez, professor in the Department of Public Health and School of Nursing at Fresno State, has received a Fulbright Scholar Teaching and Research Award to study the impact of diabetes in indigenous communities in Peru. This is the second Fulbright Scholarship awarded to Pinzon-Perez, who previously earned the award in 2008.

In spring 2016, Pinzon-Perez will teach courses in health promotion at the School of Public Health and Administration at Cayeteno Heredia Peruvian University. She will also teach health policy and research techniques.

Pinzon-Perez will be joined in Peru by her husband, Dr. Miguel Perez, also a professor in the Department of Public Health at Fresno State and fellow Fulbright awardee. Their four children will join them during the four-month sabbatical.

Pinzon-Perez said she chose to study in Peru because the research she obtains will benefit the large Hispanic population in the Central Valley.

“Having my Fulbright in a Hispanic country will provide me with lessons on public health programs for Hispanics/Latinos that I could apply here in the United States,” Pinzon-Perez said. “Indigenous groups are a numerical majority in Peru. The Central Valley is a migration place for several indigenous groups and, for that reason, it is important that public health faculty learn the cultural and health-related behaviors of indigenous groups. Living in Peru will provide me with lessons on public health interventions and programs with indigenous communities that are culturally-sensitive and cost-effective.”

At Fresno State, Pinzon-Perez teaches a course on global and cultural issues in health, which she said provides the evidence-based knowledge necessary to teach health promotion in other countries. She hopes to one day build an international center for indigenous health and said her Fulbright experience will provide the knowledge needed to make that happen.

In 2008, Pinzon-Perez was awarded a Fulbright teaching and research award to conduct an in-depth study on the relationship between diabetes and obesity, known as diabesity. She also taught a public health course in the Dominican Republic. The results of her study were later published in two journals and presented at the 2009 World Congress of Public Health in Turkey.

“My 2008 Fulbright experience teaching health promotion in the Dominican Republic is an experience that has prepared me to teach in Peru due to cultural and language similarities,” Pinzon-Perez said. “I am very honored to receive the current Fulbright award and would like to express my highest gratitude to the Fulbright U.S. Scholar program for giving me this opportunity.”

I’m also thankful to Fresno State and Provost Lynette Zelezney for her encouragement and continued support. She has been a major moving force for faculty and students, in their quest for Fulbright awards. I also thank Dr. Paul Hofmann, assistant vice president for international affairs, as well as our current and former college deans and department chairs.”

Dr. Pinzon-Perez presenting at World Congress on Public Health. Feb. 2015.
Dr. Pinzon-Perez presenting at World Congress on Public Health. Feb. 2015.

In addition to serving as professor, Pinzon-Perez is also the director of the Master of Public Health program at Fresno State. She has been part of the Fresno State faculty since 1999.

Pinzon-Perez is an alumna of Fresno State, where she received three master’s degrees: health education (1992), public health (2008) and nursing (2011). She received her Ph.D. in health education at Pennsylvania State University in 1997.

The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which works with the Council for International Exchange of Scholars to provide overseas opportunities for faculty and professionals and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through study, teaching and research.

The Fulbright grants are highly competitive, boasting 310,000 U.S. and foreign scholars from 155 countries around the world, all of whom have participated in the program since its inception in 1946.

Pinzon-Perez recently returned from the 14th World Congress on Public Health in Kolkata, India, where she provided an oral presentation on “Health Care Needs of Indigenous Groups in California.”