Latin America

Latin America is recognized as one of UNC’s global strengths. On campus since 1940, the Institute for the Study of the Americas (ISA) has been a cornerstone in promoting a deeper understanding of the Americas through innovative research, curricular development, and creative public policy initiatives.

In terms of global health, cross-campus research, teaching, and service collaborations in Latin America are deeply rooted in UNC’s culture.

The Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases is committed to fostering new collaborations and creating opportunities for synergistic programs to improve the health throughout Latin America.


In 1999, UNC began a partnership with the University of Nicaragua (UNAN) in Léon on service and teaching initiatives, under the leadership of UNC gastroenterologist Douglas Morgan. Funded research initiatives began in 2003, with a focus on gastrointestinal disease epidemiology.

IGHID supported the development of the first Institutional Review Board with Federal Wide Assurance at UNAN, which was the first in Nicaragua. A memorandum of understanding between the two universities was signed in 2008.

Students and trainees have also been involved in UNC activities in Nicaragua. UNC medical students and residents have performed clinical electives at the University Hospital (HEODRA) and outlying public clinics, have been enrolled in medical Spanish programs in León, and have contributed to existing research projects with one-on-one mentorship.

Research Areas: gastrointestinal disease epidemiology, rotavirus vaccine, H. pylori and gastric cancer
Contact: Sylvia Becker-Dreps


Guatemala is one of IGHID’s newer sites for global health research. Our initiatives are primarily based around collaborations with the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG) (Sonia Morales) and the Central American Regional Office of the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, based at UVG.

With research focused on HIV prevention and care among men who have sex with men and transgender women, the institute typically sponsors two or three medical and public health (masters or doctoral) students each year for research internships and dissertation research in Guatemala or through the CDC and UVG collaborations throughout the Central America region.

Research Areas: HIV
Contact: Clare Barrington

Dominican Republic

UNC researchers have been working in the Dominican Republic for more than 15 years. IGHID Latin America Programs Director Clare Barrington conducts research on social and structural influences on HIV vulnerability among female sex workers and their male partners, men who have sex with men, and transgender women.

Key partners in the Dominican Republic include the HIV Vaccine Research Unit at the Instituto Dermatalogico y Cirugia de Piel (PI: Dr. Yeycy Donastorg), which was one of the first HIV Vaccine Trials Networks sites established by NIH in the region and Centro de Orientacion e Investigacion Integral (COIN), a grassroots non-governmental organization focused on HIV prevention and health promotion among sex workers and other vulnerable populations. Students are involved through summer practicum and dissertation research.

Research Areas: HIV and other sexually transmitted infections
Contact: Clare Barrington


The institute has supported the UNC Center Galapagos Studies (CGS) with resources and faculty time since its inception. CGS is a collaboration with Ecuadorian university partner, Universidad San Francisco de Quito. In May 2011, UNC and USFQ dedicated its research station on San Cristobal, Galapagos.

IGHID’s associate director, Peggy Bentley, serves as vice-chair of the advisory board of CGS and is leading efforts for research, education and service in the Galapagos related to health, nutrition, infectious diseases, water and medical care. A new hospital is being built on San Cristobal and discussions about UNC’s role in this are on-going. Several public health students have pursued health-related projects in Galapagos.

Research Areas: nutrition, infectious diseases, health access, water, environment
Contact: Peggy Bentley

For a list of all UNC faculty working in Latin America, visit