Rutgers, NJ (9/24/09) – Debra Joy Pérez ’84 has led a career that exemplifies her deep commitment to improving diversity in philanthropy. In her leadership role as a Senior Program Officer in Research and Evaluation at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Debra is improving quality and reducing racial and ethnic disparities in health care. Much of her work in public health focuses on building the field of public health services systems research which supports building the evidence of how organization, structure, governance, financing, and performance impact the public health system. Debra cares about community development and social justice, and believes good research requires people from diverse backgrounds who have a connection with the study population.
Debra graduated from Douglass College with a degree in communication and went on to earn a master’s degree in women’s studies from the University of Kent in Canterbury, England, in 1993. While at Douglass she was very active in Casa Boricua and Chi Upsilon Sigma, the University’s first Latina Sorority founded in 1981. She was also part of the Educational Opportunity Program. She received the National Urban and Rural Fellows award leading to an M.P.A. from Baruch College, City University of New York, where she graduated with honors. Debra completed her interfaculty doctoral program at Harvard University in 2005, receiving her doctorate in health policy. While at Harvard, she chaired the first and second university-wide symposium on racial and ethnic disparities in health/health care. She was awarded a five-year fellowship in health policy and research from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
She began her career in philanthropy in 1997, when she became the first deputy director for New Jersey Health Initiatives, a program office of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Since joining the RWJF in 2004, she has been responsible for program development. Her current research focuses on racial/ethnic disparities in health and health care. She has a particular focus on discrimination and how socio-cultural factors such as acculturation impact immigrant and non-immigrant health and health care experiences.
Debra has published numerous articles on public health services and systems research and racial/ethnic disparities in health and health care. Her most recent article in the Journal of General Internal Medicine focuses on the relationship between perceptions of quality of care and discrimination among US-born and foreign born Latinos.
Chi Upsilon Sigma has been in existence since April 29, 1980, incepted on the New Brunswick Campus of Rutgers – the State University of New Jersey. Our founders are 7 Latinas who had the desire to create an organization to promote leadership among the Latino community and our membership has since grown to incorporate women of all ethnicities. Chi Upsilon Sigma has devoted itself to increasing awareness amongst ourselves and our communities about important political, social, cultural, and educational issues and servicing the communities around us.