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I have graduate degrees in Anthropology (Ph.D., 2014) and Behavioral and Community Health Sciences (M.PH., 2014) from the University of Pittsburgh, and International Development and Social Change (M.A., 2005) from Clark University. I received an undergraduate degree in Social Sciences (B.A., 2000) and a Licentiate in Anthropology (Lic., 2002) from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. I have obtained a Certificate in Latin American Social and Public Policy (Cert., 2014) from the University of Pittsburgh.

My fields of interest are Medical Anthropology, Global Health, Participatory Research, Intercultural health services, and Community Development in Latin America. I am interested in the connections between colonialism, international development, indigenous knowledge, the changing relations of indigenous people and the nation-state, and the perceptions of minority communities in different national contexts.

My dissertation research Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Intercultural Nurse Technicians in the Peruvian Amazon is based on a year's fieldwork in Atalaya (Ucayali) in the Peruvian Amazon (more details below). My MPH thesis is titled Taking Care of Undocumented Children: How Parents and Providers Secure Health Care for Uninsured Latino Children in a New Growth Community is based on fieldwork conducted in Pittsburgh, USA (more details below).

I am currently a National Council of Science and Technology (CONCYTEC) postdoctoral fellow at CRONICAS (Centre of Excellence in Chronic Diseases) at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (UPCH). This fellowship has given me the opportunity to understand health problems from different perspectives and is enabling me to develop research projects based on the health systems approach. I am also a Consultant for Salud Sin Límites Perú where I provide technical assistance for projects related to intercultural health services for indigenous people and the development of inclusive primary health care models.

Curriculum Vitae


Medical Anthropology

Indigenous people in Peru have had access, albeit limited, to basic state health services for the last seventy years. The existing health services, however, are based exclusively on Western biomedical understanding of health and disease, and dissuade the use of indigenous medical traditions. Despite this neglect, the indigenous communities of the Peruvian Amazon have managed to sustain their medical systems. The presence and use of multiple medical systems presents an ongoing challenge for state health workers not trained in healthcare delivery in a medically-plural setting.

My doctoral dissertation focuses on a health initiative promoted by the indigenous organization AIDESEP (Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana) to address the lack of health services that are culturally appropriate for indigenous people. The goal of such initiative is to provide intercultural health care to indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon and promote structural changes in the way governmental health services respond to the health needs and cultural characteristics of indigenous people. I focus on AIDESEP’s strategy to foster an intercultural approach to health care from within governmental health facilities, using indigenous health professionals educated in both indigenous and Western medicine. The efforts of these health professionals who hold a technical degree as Intercultural Nurse Technicians (INTs) are the core of my research.

At CRONICAS, I am exploring my interest in medical anthropology through research aimed at understanding the challenges that hypertensive and diabetic patients face to receive adequate medical care and the burden of treatment within a health system still primarily focused on infectious disease.

Public Health

During my studies at Clark University, I became interested in understanding health disparities among Latinos in the USA. Later, during my time at the University of Pittsburgh, I worked as a volunteer at the Consumer Health Coalition where I had the opportunity to learn about the healthcare challenges faced by Latinos living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

For my MPH thesis I explored the decision-making process of Latino parents when confronted with the health needs of their undocumented children. The study was conducted in western Pennsylvania. The research objectives were (1) describe the coping strategies used by parents, social workers and healthcare providers to secure healthcare for uninsured Latino children in a New Growth Community; (2) illustrate the complexity of addressing the health needs of Latino children whose legal status in the USA prevent them from accessing health care; (3) identify the most effective strategies to provide healthcare for uninsured Latino children from the variety of approaches currently used by parents, social workers and healthcare providers; and (4) propose possible measures to ensure the long-term sustainability of these strategies. During the summer of 2010, I conducted in-depth interviews with parents of undocumented children, social workers and healthcare providers serving this population.


Portocarrero J, Palma H, Pesantes MA, Seminario G, Lema C. (2015). Terapeutas tradicionales andinos en un contexto de cambio: el caso de Churcampa en el Perú (Andean traditional therapists in a context of change: the case of Churcampa in Peru). Revista Peruana de Medicina Experimental y Salud Pública, 32(3), pp 492-498. download

Pesantes, M.A., Lazo-Porras, M., Abu Dabrh, A.M. , Avila-Ramirez, J., Caycho, M. Villamonte, G. Sanchez-Perez, G., Málaga, G., Bernabé-Ortiz, A., Miranda, J.J. (2015). Resilience in Vulnerable Populations with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and Hypertension: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Canadian Journal of Cardiology, 31(9), pp. 1180-1188. download

J. Jaime Miranda, Antonio Bernabé-Ortiz, Francisco Diez-Canseco, Germán Málaga, María K. Cardenas, Rodrigo M. Carrillo-Larco, M. Amalia Pesantes, Ricardo Araya, Oscar Boggio, William Checkley, Patricia J. García, Fabiola León-Velarde, Andrés G. Lescano, Victor Montori, William Pan, Maria Rivera-Chira, Katherine Sacksteder, Liam Smeeth, Héctor H. García, Robert H. Gilman (2015). Building a Platform for Translational Research in Chronic Non-communicable Diseases to Address Population Health: Lessons From NHLBI Supported CRONICAS in Peru. Global Heart, 10 (1), pp. 13–19. download

Maria Amalia Pesantes (2014). Acceso a la Salud para Personas con Discapacidad Intelectual en el Perú (Health Access for People with Intellectual Disabilities in Peru). Olimpiadas Especiales Perú, Proyecto Comunidades Saludables. download

Documet, Patricia, Andrea Kamouyerou, Amalia Pesantes, Laura Macia, Hernan Maldonado, Andrea Fox, Leslie Bachurski, Dawn Morgenstern, Miguel Gonzalez, Roberto Boyzo, Thomas Guadamuz (2013). Participatory Assessment of the Health of Latino Immigrant Men in a Community with a Growing Latino Population. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 15(4). download

Fuller, Norma and Maria Amalia Pesantes (2010). Políticas Publicas Contra la Violencia Conyugal. Donde Estamos Veinte Años Despues? (Public Policies Against Partner Violence. Where are We Twenty Years Later?) Sexualidad, Salud y Sociedad 4, pp. 10-27. download

Maria Amalia Pesantes (2009). La Amazonia no se Vende, la Amazonia se Defiende Do not Sell the Amazon, Protect the Amazon)!: Indigenous Protests in the Peruvian Amazon. Anthropology News, 5 (7) pp. 46-47. download

Maria Amalia Pesantes (2007). Guidelines For Establishing Centers to implement Alternative Dispute Resolution to Increase Access to Healthcare in Peru. Health Policy Initiative - USAID. download

Maria Amalia Pesantes (editor) 2006. La Mujer Amazónica Fortaleciendo el futuro. Memoria del Programa Mujer Indígena (2000-2005) (Amazon Women Empowering the Future. Report of the Indigenous Women's Program). Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana. download

Maria Amalia Pesantes (2003). Metodologías Participativas en Educación Sanitaria: Una Adaptación de PHAST para Comunidades Rurales Andinas del Perú (Participatory Methodologies in Sanitary Education in the Andean Region). Banco Mundial, Programa de Agua y Saneamiento, Región Andina. download

Maria Amalia Pesantes (2002). Ideas, Sensaciones y Objetos Asociados a la Suciedad en el Campo (Ideas, Sensations and Objects associated with dirtiness). Anthropologica XX, pp. 225-230. Fondo Editorial de la PUCP, March. download

Maria Amalia Pesantes (2001). El Concepto de la Limpieza en la Familia Campesina (The Concept of Cleanliness in Rural Families). AGUA - Boletín del Comité Sectorial de Agua y Saneamiento, No. 8, March, pp. 6-7. download


2013 - Seeking a pediatrician: Experiences and transnational strategies of undocumented Latino mothers in the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: lessons learnt for Europe. Influence of Migration on Health-seeking Behaviors in Latin America, Lima.

2013 - (Panel speaker) Salud Indígena: análisis y perspectivas de la situación actual de salud de los pueblos indígenas (Indigenous Health: analysis and prospects for the current health situation of indigenous peoples). Semana Amazónica, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Lima.

2013 - (Forum speaker) La interculturalidad y transculturalidad en el proceso del cuidado de salud y enfermedad: Semejanzas y diferencias desde un marco antropológico (Intercultural and transcultural in the process of health care and disease: Similarities and differences from an anthropological framework). El cuidado bajo el enfoque de la interculturalidad y la transculturalidad, En la V Jornada Nacional de Investigación en Enfermería, Lima.

2011 - Relevant Health Issues for providing health care for indigenous people. South American Regional Environmental Office, US Embassy (Lima), Puerto Maldonado.

2009 - Beyond Language Barriers: Healthcare Access for Mixed-Status Families in Pittsburgh. Session: Immigrant and Latino Health. Conference: Undocumented Hispanic Migration, On the Margins of a Dream, Connecticut College, New London.

2009 - Childhood Diarrhea in the Andes: Beyond Fecal-Oral Transmission. Session: Crossing Boundaries: Exploring Parenthood and Childhood Beyond the Cord. Conference: Medical Anthropology at the Intersections, Celebrating 50 Years of Interdisciplinarity,Yale University, New Haven.

2009 - Intercultural Health Services in Peru: Understanding Indigenous People's Demands. Session: Social Policy and Ethnic Minorities in Latin America, Student Conference on Latin American Social and Public Policy, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh.

2008 - Cultural differences, community participation and health program: The challenges of promoting community participation in Rural Peru. Session: Public Health, Communication and Communities in Latin America, Student Conference on Latin American Social and Public Policy, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh.

2005 - Women, Health and Community Participation - Lessons from Primary Health Care Projects in Rural Peru. Session: Development Interventions: Empowerment or Marginalization of Third World Women? Gender Across Borders Conference, Brown University, Providence.

2004 - Reproductive policies in Peru: Whose decisions? Whose responses? Session: Forced Marriages or Love Matches: State, Anti-State and Para state Entities Engaging Globalization, New England Council of Latin American Studies, Boston University, Boston.

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