Service to minorities shapes the health and aging research of a first-generation Trojan

PhD candidate Catherine Pérez researches health disparities while studying health and aging at USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology

January 17, 2018 Beth Newcomb

Service is an important part of everything Catherine Pérez does at USC.

The PhD candidate at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology researches health disparities in minority communities. She also tries to address the needs of people on and off the University Park Campus.

“I want to do my part in improving the lives of people in my community and beyond,” said Pérez, a first-generation student of Puerto Rican, Honduran and Arawak Indian descent. “It’s my way of paying it forward.”

Pérez, who first came to USC in 2014, said her time at the university and the opportunities found at the university have shaped her into the scholar she is today.

I have great mentors … and I take their advice sincerely.

Catherine Pérez

“I have received tremendous support that has enhanced my understanding of Latinx aging and health,” she said. “I have great mentors … that support me, encourage me and endorse me, and I take their advice sincerely. Their mentoring over the years has motivated me to seek opportunities to assist others.”

Overcoming hurdles

Pérez’s service to fellow Trojans includes teaching workshops for students learning to use statistical software. She has also discussed social determinants of health with California State University, Los Angeles students who are considering health professions.

She also represents the USC Leonard Davis student body on the school’s diversity and inclusion committee, which allows her to ensure changes related to race and racism and eliminate disparities in higher education for minority students. During the fall semester, Pérez volunteered at the USC Gould School of Law’s Immigration Clinic Citizenship Project, where she helped Latinx migrants complete their applications for U.S. citizenship.

Pérez has been named the 2018 recipient of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education Student Leadership Award. The award, she said, will enable her to continue health research while also teaching, motivating and supporting others to achieve their goals.