Born and raised in Venezuela, Patricia Perez always had a passion for food, despite how she was a “terribly picky eater.” However, she is now a nutrition science major at Georgia State University. Her interest in nutrition arose when her mother was diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis — produced by a rare mutation that only two other people had globally.
“Because of the Venezuelan [political] situation, [her mother] had to get surgery in the U.S. during which she had half of her digestive system removed. She is now alive and healthy,” Perez said. She recognized the importance of nutrition in preventing and treating diseases. “My mom is my greatest inspiration, my first case study and patient. I’m passionate about translating scientific evidence into easy-to-understand concepts to help prevent diseases and change people’s relationships with food.”
Perez started at one university but searched for new options when the cost of tuition became too high. She applied to schools with strong nutritional science programs and where the weather was somewhat nice, she says. She found Atlanta and its astounding network of businesses; therefore, Georgia State seemed a highly attractive option — even more so when the university offered her a full out-of-state tuition waiver.
“I received the email with my award right after my mom was out of her surgery. So, I thought it was a sign, and I’m glad I followed it!” Perez said.
At Georgia State, Perez served on the executive board of GlobeMed, a student organization that partners with non-profits globally. In summer 2018, she led a team of Panthers to Malawi to intern with the Arts and Global Health Center Africa (ArtGlo), where they worked in development for the Students with Dreams (SWD) programs. SWD helps students develop community projects. She assisted on a project that encourages young girls to work jobs or start businesses after dropping out of school following marriage, having children, or being sexually abused.
After graduation, Perez plans to return to Georgia State to earn a master’s in health sciences to become a registered dietitian. She also delivers small conferences in Spanish about nutrition, and she wishes to continue this work in the Hispanic community of Atlanta.
Outside of school, Perez has been dancing flamenco since she was four and still performs professionally.
“Dancing… makes me be present, appreciate being alive and relieve stress. [It] is an art because it requires coordination of movements from your whole body while also expressing the deep sentiment of the story behind each song,” she said.
Perez advises new students to step outside of their comfort zones, engage with professors, and dive into the opportunities that Georgia State has to offer, including study abroad.
“When you do things you love and are passionate about, even if they’re not related to your major, you will get a life-changing experience. Those experiences are the ones that make you stand out from the rest!”
— By Grace Dalton, English, Pre-Education Major