Isabella Chan puts education to practice in Peru with new fellowship

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USF College of Public Health doctoral candidate Isabella Chan is one of 16 2016-2017 recipients of the Inter-American Foundation Grassroots Development Fellowships.

The fellowship will support Chan while she completes her dissertation research in the Carhuaz province of Peru this upcoming September until May. Chan’s research study will explore women’s decision-making around and experiences with intimate partner violence in non-Western settings and among minority populations, specifically indigenous women in rural Peru.

Isabella Chan Headshot

Isabella Chan, USF COPH PhD student. (Photo by Natalie Preston)

Despite her illustrious academic background (her list of awards as a student runs more than a full page long and includes the 2013 Peter K. New Student Research Award from the Society for Applied Anthropology), Chan still reacted to her IAF acceptance with surprise.

“It was amazing! I actually worried that maybe I had gotten the email by mistake and that there might have been an error,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it, I was so excited!”

Chan is pursuing her PhD in the Department of Global Health. Originally from Atlanta, she earned her undergraduate degree in anthropology with a minor in French from Georgia State University in 2008. Chan credits her work in medical anthropology for her initial interest in public health.

Isabella Chan workshop

Chan during a participatory action research workshop, during her master’s research. (Photo courtesy of Isabella Chan)

Chan earned both her MA in applied anthropology and her MPH in global health practice from USF in 2013.

“I have had a great experience at COPH, as both a master’s and a doctoral student,” Chan said. “I have been afforded great opportunities to apply the knowledge I’ve gained and research skills I’ve developed in my coursework through my assistantship positions.”

Chan has another opportunity to put her education to practice—in Peru.

Chan completed her master’s research in Peru. Pictured above in the center, with her women’s group, during the mayoral inauguration. (Photo provided by Isabella Chan)

Chan completed her master’s research in Peru. Pictured above in the center, with a local women’s group, during the mayoral inauguration. (Photo courtesy of Isabella Chan)

During her research study, Chan will be affiliating with the Center for Social Well Being, as well as the provincial Office of the Women’s Emergency Center, and a local grassroots women’s group. Chan says she felt compelled to apply for the IAF Fellowship because of their commitment to community-based work and grassroots organizations.

“I felt my doctoral research would be a good opportunity to engage the topic and use my dissertation to benefit the communities I work with,” she said.

Chan has become familiar with Peru—she completed her master’s research within the same community. She said she came to this topic through her community engagement in Carhuaz.

“Women and community members spoke to me regarding their concerns about IPV [intimate partner violence],” she said.

Isabella Chan thesis presentation

Chan sharing thesis research on maternal decision-making with local health workers during a workshop to improve practice of health care provision. (Photo courtesy of Isabella Chan)

When asked what she is most proud of accomplishing during her time at COPH, Chan could not narrow it down to a single moment.

“Honestly, it’s not one specific thing that I am particularly proud of accomplishing at COPH, but my journey in general,” she said. “My parents and grandparents struggled quite a bit in immigrating to the United States, and they did so to give me the opportunities I have now. For me, the best way to express my gratitude is to take advantage of the opportunities I have been afforded, particularly higher education, and channel them towards facilitating the efforts of others.”

Story by Shelby Bourgeois, USF College of Public Health