Dr. Pamela DeGuzman, Nurse Scientist

Pamela DeGuzman

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Assistant Professor, Family, Community & Mental Health Systems
School of Nursing
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I study the effect geography has on the health of vulnerable populations in both rural areas and inner cities, along with healthcare management, public health systems, and nursing history. Throughout my career, I’ve asked: How does neighborhood geography—the terrain and topography of where we live–determine our health? As public health nurses working with those whose health suffers because of their ZIP code, what can we do to promote well-being? What works—and what doesn’t? My early scholarship attempted to link a neighborhood’s walkability to its residents’ health. I quickly discovered that those links only work for some people. In the U.S., if you live in an urban, potentially violent neighborhood, it takes more than good sidewalks and plenty of greenspaces to improve health because there’s so much more going on. Perceptions of violence, particularly for women living in highly segregated urban areas, affect both physical activity and health. Beyond its impact on mental health, perceptions of violence in a neighborhood can lead to chronic stress exposure, which in turn affects individuals on a genetic level, making them more likely to develop cancer, diabetes, and other diseases.

Public health nurses, more than any other professionals, are in perfect position to forge change at precisely the place where it’s needed: through interventions that alleviate stress and augment health.

What excites me most is that science has given us an understanding of our bodies’ genetic response to chronic neighborhood stress, and opened up our ability to understand and assess the effects of neighborhood interventions at a genetic level.


See maps of San Antonio and walking distances to buses to understand how geography and urban environments affects your health based on income.


Read more about Dr. DeGuzman’s research and teaching efforts for public health https://www.nursing.virginia.edu/people/prb7y/

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