Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Ligia Peralta, M.D., F.A.A.P., F.S.A.H.M.
MSA SC 3520-15535

Biography:

Ligia Peralta's work in the field of HIV infected and at risk youth has helped to positively change the lives of numerous individuals. Peralta has conducted scores of studies to help understand how best to treat and understand infected and at risk adolescents, as well as investigate the best ways to prevent the spread of infection among this often misrepresented and misunderstood population. In addition, her work to raise awareness about the risks and treatments of all Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) in adolescents demonstrates Peralta's unflinching passion for her work.

Ligia Peralta received her M.D. from Universidad Nacional Pedro Henriquez Urena, Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.1 During her postgraduate studies, she won a scholarship from the Kellog Foundation, allowing her to participate in the Salzbury Seminar for American Studies in Austria.2 She completed her residency at the University of Connecticut, and then received a fellowship at the University of Maryland Medical Center.3 It was during her studies that Peralta decided to specialize in HIV, and later in adolescent health. At Maryland, Peralta worked under the direction of the late Dr. Felix Heald, the man responsible for establishing the adolescent medical program at the University's School of Medicine.4 Peralta was Dr. Heald's last fellow at the medical school, and she considers him the 'father' of adolescent medicine.5 Peralta was fortunate to work with such a leader in her chosen field, and the wisdom she gained from him would help guide her through her impressive career.

Dr. Peralta has risen today to become a distinguished faculty member in the Department of Pediatrics and Epidemiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.6 She is also Chief of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, as well as the Director of the Adolescent HIV Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.7 In 2009, Dr. Peralta was appointed as president of the Susana De Moya Foundation, an organization that supports Dominican students in the Maryland/Washington, D.C. areas by providing an award to encourage them to remain in school.8

Dr. Peralta has been involved in many different societies and organizations over the years. She is a a member of the Society for Pediatric Research, as well as a member of the Executive Committee of the Association of Academic Minority Physicians.9 Peralta also serves as the Society of Adolescent Medicine's representative to the American Medical Association's Adolescent Committee, and has provided testimony to U.S. Congressional briefings in the areas of HIV, Youth Care, and African-American and Latino health.10 She is also a member of the Advisory Board of the National Hispanic Medical Association.11

While Peralta has particpated in numerous studies over the years, her major focus of research has been the study of HIV/STD infections in adolescents. Through her work, she has made several helpful, and sometimes startling, discoveries about HIV that have been invaluable in understanding, preventing, and treating HIV in at risk/infected youth. She has learned that many adolescents do not get tested for HIV because they do not believe they could be HIV positive, or that they do not feel at risk for the virus.12 Figuring out ways to encourage testing among this group has been one of her major goals over the years. Peralta has said, "Theoretically, they (adolescents) do understand the risks. However, from there to recognizing that my partner, the partner that I choose, may be infected with HIV, there's major disconnect."13

Prevention through correct, consistent use of contraception has also been a major objective for Peralta, especially for at-risk youth. She discoverd in one of her studies that at risk youth were two and a half times more likely than HIV infected subjects to report using no contraceptives, and that only half of the HIV infected and at risk youth reported consistently using effective contraception, regardless of its availability.14Peralta has attempted to raise awareness about the correct use of contraceptives among this group in an effort to reduce the risk of infection among at-risk individuals. She has particularly focused on African-American and Hispanic populations who are at risk. In 2000, African-American youths had become the 'new face' of HIV.15

Dr. Peralta has also learned over the years that the biggest challenge with treating HIV infected youth, particularly based on her studies in Baltimore, is getting them to stick to their treatment regiment.16 Consistent treatment of HIV helps reduce symptoms as well as delay the onset of AIDs. This lack of consistency is disturbing news, especially taking into account the fact that many countries have difficulting in even providing medication to all the HIV infected in need.17 Dr. Peralta also developed the "One Stop Shopping Program," a model of service that provides adolescents with many health related services in one location, such as free HIV testing and counseling, specialized examinations, dental care, and sex and substance abuse counseling.18

How has Peralta addressed the issues surrounding the prevention and treatment of HIV in adolescents? Her major policy has been to increase the involvement of local clinics in treating and addressing the problems of at-risk/infected youth. In Baltimore, Peralta operates out of a clinic at the University of Maryland Medical campus, treating patients as well as conducting studies on volunteers.19 Peralta is also involved in Connect to Protect, an organization that, "seeks to combine the strengths of communities and researchers in the effort to protect young people from HIV."20

In addition, the Division of Adolescent Medicine at the University of Maryland, which Peralta heads, is part of the Adolescent Medicine Trials Network (ATN). The ATN consists of 15 sites nationwide that conducts research independently and in collaboration with the research network.21 In an effort to raise awareness on the need to establish unique treatments for adolesecent patients through this division, Peralta says:

"Since the needs of teens differ greatly from children, the division is committed to fostering public and private partnerships to advocate for adolescents and their families. In a youth friendly envirnoment, young people are treated with care and respect."22

The need for the public to understand that adolescents have medical needs unique from children or adults is an issue Peralta and her colleagues have had to face, and addressing the issue has become a key priority.

Dr. Peralta has also worked in establishing a Health on the Boards clinic in Ocean City, Maryland.23 The clinic was established for youth in the area. Peralta says, "Many of the young people who come to Ocean City are on their own for the first time, and they don't always know where to turn for help. We're here to treat everything from sunburn to jellyfish stings to infections."24 Peralta's compassion for adolescents is a rarity; she has a unique understanding of who they are as individuals and how best to treat them as patients.

Peralta has also been involved in several volunteer activities, including founding the not-for-profit organization Casa Ruben.25 In additon, she also established the first Spanish Mini Medical School to help immigrants in the medical field re-enter medicine in the United States.26 Moreover, she is or has been involved in the following national organizations, among others:

    -National Pediatric and Family HIV Resource Center Working Group on Antiretrovial Therapy and
         Medical Management of HIV-Infected Children
    -National HIV Task Force
    -National Institute of Health
    -Centers for Medicare and Medicaid
    -Center for Disease Control and Prevention
    -American Academy of Pediatrics
    -American Public Health Association
    -National Hispanic Medical Association27

While much of Dr. Peralta's work has been in and around Maryland, she has also helped to address the HIV pandemic in other nations. She works in the Dominican Republic, her country of birth, to address the HIV cases in the region.28 Next to Africa, the Dominican Republic has been the hardest hit by the outbreak of HIV, and, combined with Haiti, accounts for eighty-five percent of the HIV/AIDS cases in the Caribbean.29 Peralta has worked with the President of the Dominican Republic to establish a presidential committee on HIV/AIDS.30 She has also worked in various Latin American countries as well as Thailand, Russia, United Arab Emirates, Slovenia, Croatia, Tunisia, and South Africa to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic.31

Dr. Ligia Peralta has been a researcher, teacher, mentor, and friend to many. Her work in the field of adolescent medicine, especially in HIV/AIDS research and awareness, will continue to have a significant impact on the lives of individuals in succeeding years. Moreover, her dedication to bettering the lives of youths through medicine makes her a person of enviable qualtiy and character. She is, without doubt, a deserving member of the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame.
 
 

Written by Archival Intern Emily J. Steedman, B.A. History, A.A. Liberal Arts & Sciences
 
 

ENDNOTES:
1. "Directory listing for Ligia Peralta, University of Maryland Medical System," University of Maryland Medical Center,
    http://www.umm.edu/doctors/ligio_peralta.html (Accessed June 24, 2011). Return to text
2. "Ligia Peralta, M.D., F.A.A.P., F.S.A.H.M.," Maryland Commission for Women Nomination Packet, 2011. Return to text
3. "Directory listing for Ligia Peralta, University of Maryland Medical System," University of Maryland Medical Center. Return to text
4. Lisa Goldberg, "Dr. Felix P. Heald, 82, founded UM program in adolescent medicine," Baltimore Sun, August 16, 2004, Final Edition, Lexis Research
    System. Return to text
5. Ibid. Return to text
6. "Susana de Moya Foundation - Our Board," Susana de Moya Foundation, http://sdmfoundation.org/blog/board/ (Accessed June 24, 2011). Return to text
7. Ibid. Return to text
8. Ibid. and "Susana de Moya Foundation - About the Foundation," Susana de Moya Foundation, http://sdmfoundation.org/blog/about-2/ (Accessed June 24,
    2011). Return to text
9. Ibid. Return to text
10. Ibid. Return to text
11. Ibid. Return to text
12. Bethany Griffin Deeds, Kareem Ghalib, Sandra Hipszer, and Ligia Peralta, "Barriers and Facilitators to Adolescent HIV Testing," AIDS PATIENT CARE
    and STDs, 21, No. 6 (2007): 402, Academic Search Premier EBSCOhost. Return to text
13. Lisa Frazier, "The New Face of HIV Is Young, Black: Despite the Risks, Unsafe Behavior Goes on, Doctors Find," Washington Post, July 16, 2000, Final
    Edition, Lexis Research System. Return to text
14. Marvin Belzer, Audrey Smith Rogers, Margaret Camarca, Dana Fuchs, Ligia Peralta, Diane Tucker, Stephen J. Durako, and the Adolescent Medicine
    HIV/AIDS Research Network, "Contraceptive Choices in HIV Infected and HIV At-Risk Adolescent Females," Journal of Adolescent Health 29, No. 3,
    Supplement 1 (September 2001): 93, ArticleFirst Search. Return to text
15. Lisa Frazier, "The New Face of HIV." Return to text
16. Scott Calvert, "WITH TREATMENT, LIFE IN THE LIGHT; SEVEN YEARS AFTER HE LEARNED HE WAS HIV-POSITIVE,ZIMBABWEAN
    SAYS, 'I'M STRONG, I'M PURSUING LIFE,'" Baltimore Sun, September 26, 2010, Final Edition, Lexis Research System. Return to text
17. Ibid. Return to text
18. "Ligia Peralta, M.D., F.A.A.P., F.S.A.H.M.," Maryland Commission for Women Nomination Packet. Return to text
19. Stephanie Desmon, "1 IN 4 U.S. TEEN GIRLS INFECTED WITH STD; CDC CALLS STUDY'S FINDINGS 'ALARMING,'" Baltimore Sun, March
    18, 2008, Final Edition, Lexis Research System. Return to text
20. Diane M. Straub, Bethany Griffin Deeds, Nancy Willard, Judith Castor, Ligia Peralta, Vincent T. Francisco, Jonathan Ellen, and the Adolescent Trials
    Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions, "Partnership Selection and Formation: A Case Study of Developing Adolescent Health Community-Research
    Partnerships in Fifteen U.S. Communities," Journal of Adolescent Health 40 (2007): 490, ArticleFirst Search. Return to text
21. "Children's Hospital - UMCH Research," University of Maryland Medical Center, http://www.umm.edu/pediatrics/research.htm (Accessed June 24, 2011).
    Return to text
22. Ibid. Return to text
23. "Keeping Kids Safe at O.C.," Baltimore Daily Record, June 10, 2000, Lexis Research System. Return to text
24. Ibid. Return to text
25. "Ligia Peralta, M.D., F.A.A.P., F.S.A.H.M.," Maryland Commission for Women Nomination Packet. Return to text
26. Ibid. Return to text
27. Ibid. Return to text
28. Sonia Elabd, "Preparing Nations to Fight HIV," University of Maryland Research and Scholarship (2004): 4-5. Google Search. Return to text
29. Ibid. Return to text
30. Ibid. Return to text
31. "Ligia Peralta, M.D., F.A.A.P., F.S.A.H.M.," Maryland Commission for Women Nomination Packet. Return to text
 

Return to Dr. Ligia Peralta's Introductory Page
 
 


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