Nilda (Nena) Peragallo, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N.
Dr. Nilda (Nena) Peragallo, Dean and Professor of the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies, is a nationally and internationally recognized educator, academic, and leader in the science of health disparities and in the recruitment and retention of minority scientists in the field of healthcare research. A minority scientist herself, she has dedicated her 35+ year career to identifying ways to reduce the gap between minority and majority populations’ health outcomes. Originally from Valparaiso on the coast of Chile, Peragallo earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Chile, her Master of Science in Nursing from West Virginia University, and her Doctorate in Public Health from the University of Texas School of Public Health. While teaching at the University of Central Florida in Orlando in the early 1980's, Peragallo met the patient who would change the course of her career and propel her to come one of the nation's foremost researchers in HIV/AIDS risk reduction and prevention in Latinos.
Like many healthcare professionals in the early 80's, Peragallo had been watching the HIV statistics from CDC. The number of Latino women with HIV was steadily increasing. Peragallo explains, "One day I was at the hospital with the students who were in their senior year, and we were doing clinical rounds. And there was this one man, a patient, and nobody on the floor wanted to go into his room. But I had assigned the patient to one of my students, so we went in. There were trays all over the place, and the curtains were down. This was a man with AIDS. Nobody wanted to enter that room because, at that time, people really didn't know what AIDS was. It really affected me." Thinking like a scientist, Peragallo designed and implemented a study on nurses' knowledge and attitudes toward HIV/AIDS patients. She found a significant connection between lack of knowledge regarding HIV/AIDS and bias and discrimination against patients suffering from the disease. The results of that study changed state of Florida policy to require two hours of HIVIAIDS education as a pre-requisite of nursing license renewals.
Peragallo has since established an impressive research portfolio of competitive federal funding in the prevention of disease among underserved ethnic minorities, an area where her scientific findings have proven both translational and groundbreaking. She has advanced her scientific agenda as Principal Investigator on studies funded by the NIH and the CDC, including the first R01 grant funded by the NIH/NINR to a Hispanic nurse for a study to test an HIV/AIDS intervention for low-income, inner city women in Mexico and Puerto Rico. Her current work involves disparity population-focused interventions in Mexico, Chile and Haiti.
Since assuming leadership of the School of Nursing and Health Studies in 2003, Peragallo has transformed its research portfolio. The School is now 1st in Florida and 20Ut in the U.S. among schools of nursing for NIH funding. In 2007, she obtained a $7 million+ grant from the NIH's National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities to launch the University of Miami Center of Excellence for Health Disparities Research (El Centro). The Center has since come to be recognized as a force in health disparities research within UM, locally and nationally. Peragallo has also played a pivotal role in revamping the School's academic programs to face the challenge of a reformed national health care system. Cutting-edge curriculum changes have been instituted by Peragallo with an eye towards easing the nursing shortage and meeting the emerging issues confronting researchers, educators and practitioners in the 21st century nursing domain. She is positioning her program's graduates to interact in an increasingly globalized healthcare system by expanding the School's commitment to international collaboration. The School now has formal bi directional student exchange agreements with Chile, Mexico, Spain, Haiti, Taiwan and Australia.
Peragallo's policy leadership roles include past service on the NIH/NIMHD Advisory Council and present oc-Chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center's Health Project Workforce Committee. A fellow of the prestigious American Academy of Nursing, Peragallo is past president of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, a member of Sigma Theta Tau International (the honor society of nursing), and founding editor of Hispanic Healthcare International. She was recently appointed to the Board of Directors oflntraHealth International, a global health nonprofit organization that champions the critical role of health workers in health and development. She is a well-respected and sought-after speaker in the field of nursing research and education, and has authored numerous professional publications in her area of expertise.