UCCS nutrition graduate begins postdoctoral fellowship at CU Anschutz Medical Campus

Luis Perez
Luis Perez

Alumni Spotlight: Luis Perez ’15

A little over 1,000 miles from his Mountain Lion roots, Luis Perez is packing his belongings to return to Colorado. Perez recently completed his doctorate in nutritional sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Perez returns to the University of Colorado system, this time, as a post-doctorate fellow at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus in the Division of Renal Diseases and Hypertension.

“I look forward to this opportunity,” Perez said. “It combines my background in clinical nutrition with my research interests.”

Perez begins a 2-3-year fellowship on July 15 at the CU Anschutz campus in Aurora, Colorado.

“My goals of this fellowship are to study and research under a nephrologist,” Perez said. “I want to expand my skill set and find ways to share nutrition education and a sampling of my work as a registered dietitian with medical providers and professionals.”

Early in his career, Perez made connections that later transformed into unique learning experiences furthering his education and research to reach this pivotal point.

“I had been in the military for six years before coming to University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS),” said Perez. “As a non-traditional student, I knew it was important for me to get connected and meet my colleagues, peers, and professors. I got involved.”

Perez joined the UCCS Nutrition Club, serving as club chair and eventually as club president. Throughout his tenure with the club, he helped raise funds for club members to attend the state conference for nutrition and for the club to attend a variety of health fairs and wellness events.

“Where I am today goes back to the [UCCS] Nutrition Club.” Perez said. “I was connected to a clinical nutrition volunteer position at Penrose Hospital. I worked with hospital dietitians performing in-patient assessments for patients with heart disease.”

Upon graduation from the UCCS Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Perez completed a six-year doctorate program and internship, earning hours toward becoming a registered dietitian.

“When I began my doctorate program, I worked with Kenneth Wilund, professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health [at the The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign]. I assisted with his trials and research on chronic kidney disease and end-stage kidney failure,” said Perez.

After studying with a mentor and learning the current clinical trials, doctorate students then design and fund their own research studies and trials.

“We developed a meal delivery service for dialysis patients. We designed meals plans and recipes, as well as education and counseling tools,” said Perez. “The restrictions and medical diets for the patients are hard to follow, so we wanted to help through medical nutrition therapy. We saw positive health outcomes for the patients.”

Eager to continue his valuable research and work in aiding renal disease and hypertension patients to achieve better health outcomes, Perez soon begins his post doctorate fellowship position with the CU Anschutz in the Division of Renal Diseases and Hypertension.

“I look forward to coming back to Colorado, especially to get outdoors,” said Perez. “I am excited to begin research and work on the newer trials. I am experienced in working with the end stages of kidney disease, and this will be new for me to work with patients in the beginning stages of kidney disease.”

Perez, a first-generation college graduate and veteran, also brings a diverse background to the nutrition field as a Hispanic (3% of nutrition professionals) male (4% of nutrition professionals).

“I had a great experience at UCCS,” Perez said. “Dr. Hutchins, Dr. Kirby and Dr. Berning have left lasting impressions. I often check-in with Dr. Hutchins for career advice and possible opportunities, or where to go next.”