Interview with Dr. Perez (Part II): Florida Tech Perfect Match … Curiosity, Persistence, and Perspiration Valued

This fall, Dr. Henry Perez joined the Nathan M. Bisk College of Business as Academic Chair of our online and campus MBA specializations in Healthcare Management. Dr. Perez recently completed his PhD in Public Administration. In the second part of a two part series, Dr. Perez shares insights about his research and teaching interests.

Tell us a little about your research in advancing your field of study. What do you hope to accomplish in the long run?

My research interest bridge public and private health care concerns and the impact society has on how long-term care is provided in America. Two basic assumptions drive my research: 1) that everyone will either need long-term care or will be responsible for someone who requires long-term care; and 2) that awareness, competition, and understanding is the only way we can manage the trade-offs between the three main health care factors access, cost, and quality.

Everyone wants better access, lower cost, and the best quality. My perspective is that we can’t get there because we are tied to a certain way of doing things. Also, our health care system is complex and politicized such that change is typically incremental and outcomes never truly measured. My research focuses on long-term care because it is a growing and poorly understood concern, both expensive and resource intensive.

There are several populations that require or might require long-term care (LTC), most of which can be placed into one or more of three groups: the elderly, the physically disabled, and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). I focus on the IDD population because it is growing and many of these individuals need what is classified as LTC or assistance with daily living from cradle-to-grave. In this population, the key issue of quality is poorly defined.

In my research, I use social integration as a proxy for quality and I look at how well some specific Medicaid programs are doing at fostering social integration. The basic premise is that social integration is vital to both the individual and the community in that it increases the individual’s value to society and makes the trade-offs between access, cost, and quality at first more manageable and eventually obsolete.

We need to work at finding manageable and replicable measures for quality; which is the first thing I am working on. We also need to see what works best in an environment to determine what might be generalizable, which is the second thing I am working on.

In the long run, we need to think of LTC as something other than healthcare. Medicaid is the largest provider of LTC in the country. It was never intended to manage long-term care. We need to understand that quality LTC and social integration for all are as vital to our society as the oil we buy or the food we eat. Therefore, I hope my research in some way improves the systems and processes that dictate the quality and perceptions of long-term care for everyone including those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

What course is your favorite to teach?

I am not sure I have a favorite course. I tend to enjoy teaching international business classes because they allow me to draw from my experiences. However, in terms of favorite I enjoy any classes were the students are engaged. Usually you have some students that are more active than others. But, I get excited when the quiet ones finally start voicing their opinions or asking questions.

Tell us a little about yourself. What brings you to academia and Florida Tech?

I came to academia to be able to spend more time with my family. I have found the experience of working on a Ph.D. both challenging and rewarding. The coursework and research, along with caretaking two aging parents before they passed; as well as, my daughter Lily who has a rare neurodevelopmental disorder call Rett syndrome, have made me a very different person then who I was in my 20’s and 30’s.

I have always been curious and persistent. Once I am certain, in my mind of the direction I want to take, I aspire to perspire in a meaningful way. In other words, I work hard to make positive things happen. My wife Carolyn has supported me since we started as a couple over 25 years ago. She grounds me when I need it. My two daughters, Katie 8 and Lily 14, are a constant source of joy, amazement, and enlightenment. I learn through them and with them. Lily requires assistance with every aspect of daily living and she specifically has taught me patience and what unconditional love really means. Katie has brought back my childhood, my inquisitiveness, and a certain level of silliness.

I am very active in advocating for families facing the challenges associated with Rett Syndrome — increasing awareness and fund raising for Rett research. The first link below is to a story about the Blue Sky Event that was held in West Palm Beach, October 15th; and the second link is to the main page of the Costume Parade for a Cure Strollathon, October 19th, for which I am the coordinating chair.

Blue Sky Event:

Costume Parade for a Cure Strollathon:

A job brought me to Florida Tech, but the progressive, engaging environment and open-hearted people will keep me here. Due to my daughter’s services and other constraints, Carolyn and I wanted to stay in Florida. Call it serendipity, luck, or timing — this position became available at the perfect time. Florida Tech is a perfect match, a place where I can focus on my family, on my students, and on my research and where curiosity, persistence, and perspiration are valued.


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