Social Impact can encompass a wide range of ideas and projects that positively affect the communities we live in.
We are delighted to showcase various Fulbright alumni working with art, music, science,
and public health projects that are contributing to a better world.


A series by Leslie Kutsenkow (Fulbright Intern, Summer 2023)


Fulbright alumnus, André Peralta Santos, has been a specialist in Public Health since 2015 and was recently named the Deputy Director of Public Health, on a replacement basis, by the Ministry of Health. Manuel Pizarro, the Minister of Health stated how André “is a relatively young doctor, but with a brilliant career professional and academic…and I do not doubt that [he] will contribute to the Directorate-General for Health…an institution that guarantees the Portuguese people’s safety and quality of health care.”.

André previously was the coordinator for the PaRIS project, an international OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) led initiative to improve the responsiveness of public health needs by evaluating the survey results of patients: “The PaRIS survey fills in an information gap in health systems and helps policymakers understand how health systems address the needs of chronic patients.”

André introduced data science methods using the statistical software R when he was the Director of Information and Analysis at the General Directorate of Health (from 2020 to 2021) to implement new ways of communicating scientific results about public health to the people. Also, he is a guest instructor at the National School of Public Health “in the areas of Epidemiology and Data Science, developing research related to the…consequences of infectious diseases with epidemic or pandemic potential both on health systems and on the health of the population”. André has published many articles on COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness and the economic impacts of COVID-19 on the healthcare systems in Portugal.


(André Peralta Santos)


We interviewed André about how his Fulbright grantee experience in the United States shaped who he is today and the impact he hopes to create in the ever-important world of the public health post-pandemic.

  1. How do you plan to use your experiences in the United States in your role as the Deputy Director of General Health? During my time in the United States as a Fulbright student, I gained invaluable insights from immersing myself in a different culture. This exposure has honed my ability to be more empathetic. Furthermore, the American culture, known for its directness and resilience, has empowered me to be more decisive and unafraid of failure. Additionally, I had the opportunity to cultivate a strong network of amazing professionals and friends. This network will be a significant resource for collaboration and knowledge exchange, which is vital in the ever-evolving field of healthcare. Finally, my academic experience extended beyond public health, as I acquired skills in economics, public policy and data science. These competencies will be important in my new role.
  2. What challenges in society do you think that the Portuguese people face regarding public health and how do you plan to help the community locally to overcome them? There are many challenges, but let me delve into one that greatly concerns me: the erosion of trust, particularly trust in institutions, science, and fellow human beings. Trust is the cornerstone upon which modern society is built, and the diminishing of this trust is evident in various sectors, notably healthcare. For instance, vaccine hesitancy showcases how this erosion manifests itself. Contemplating how we can cultivate trust in science is pivotal and will be a critical challenge in the upcoming decades. This is essential in order to effectively utilize both cutting-edge innovations and established technologies that have been developed to enhance human health.
  3. If you could have one impact on the Portuguese people now or in the future, what would it be? During my stay in the US, I had the opportunity to meet Bill Foege, a prominent figure in the eradication of smallpox, who is affectionately known as the “Gentle Giant of Public Health”. He imparted to us the importance of perseverance and the belief in the possibility of change. While I harbor no ambitions to make as monumental an impact as Bill Foege, I would be immensely satisfied if I could contribute in any way to better prepare the Portuguese population for dealing with public health emergencies.


André attended the University of Washington as a Fulbright student, receiving a Ph.D. in Global Health. He holds a Master’s degree in Medicine from Universidade Nova de Lisboa, a postgraduate degree in “research” from Harvard Business School, and a Master’s degree in Public Health from Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Also, André has been a public health specialist since 2015 and a medical career assistant at the Alentejo Central Health Center Group since 2016.


Thank you, André, and continue the great work!

— — — —

Since you are here, read “My Fulbright Experience” too, a series focused on the Fulbrighters’ testimonies about their Fulbright programs in the US and in Portugal!