For the past three summers, Dr. Miguel Perez, professor in the Department of Public Health, has led a service-learning trip to the Dominican Republic to engage student in applying public health on a global scale. This year, he led 12 students to the region, with with the focus on securing clean water for six bateys – encampments where Haitian immigrants reside.

According to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, water scarcity and inadequate sanitation are the leading causes that negatively impact food security because it worsens hunger and malnutrition.

With this goal in mind, Perez wants to help the Haitian immigrants that work in the Dominican Republic. He says that the decline in sugar production has made it virtually impossible for them to gain employment. The bateys where they live have little medical services and less public health outreach. Perez uses this annual trip as a way of better serving Haitian lives by sharing services and bringing them products that they are in desperate need of, such as water.

Photo Credit: Instagram user @jeullena. #CSUFtakesDR2017

“I wanted [my students] to apply public health principles [to] an environment that was unfamiliar to them,” Perez said. He aimed for students to be immersed in the culture and history of the Dominican Republic to show them that this hands-on experience is the groundwork for how students can apply service to an invisible population.

The service-learning trip, which took place June 3-13, gave 11 public health students and an art major (four of which were graduate students) the opportunity to travel abroad and expand their horizons, while creating lasting memories.

Fresno State students patnered with health student from the Universidad Central del Este.

Kat Gerchenzon, a public health senior at the time, attended the service-learning trip and said access to clean water is a necessity for life and health.

“I believe that taking this trip helps to provide a deeper perspective about health access, cultures of health, and how to take different approaches to education across multiple barriers to good health,” Gerchenzon said.

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Photo credit: Instagram user @jeullena. #CSUFtakesDR2017

In a classroom, it is easy to forget the massive impact public health efforts will make to the ever-changing world. This trip encourages students to explore their own humanity and as Perez says, to experience joy by adapting to the learning needs and environments of the populations’ public health professionals serve.

Kat Gerchenzon (R), a public health senior at the time of the trip, said going overseas to provide health education is highly impactful for those help.

“This trip allows us to experience joy through the smiles and gratitude expressed by those we serve,” Perez said. “We strive to make their lives a little better through the limited services/products we bring. It also allows to grow as professionals by adapting to the learning needs and environments of the populations in the field, not every lesson needs a power point.”

The materials to provide clean water and educational tools for families residing at the bateys was made possible through the generous financial support of Fresno State’s Friends for Civic Engagement and community donors.

Students who attended the trip expressed their gratitude about the trip using the Instagram hashtag #CSUFtakesDR2017, as seen below.


To learn more about service-learning opportunities in the Dominican Republic, contact Miguel Perez at or 559.278.2897 or visit

– Written by Rebeca Flores, CHHS Communication Student Assistant