CTSI Profile: Perla Nunes

August 23, 2018

A self-described people person, Perla Nunes serves as the Manager for Community Engagement, Outreach and Recruitment at the Kannapolis campus for the Duke Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI). Perla works with her team to educate members of the community about research and recruit and retain participants in research studies.

One of the things Perla enjoys most about her work is interacting with people and building relationships with local residents. Perla understands the importance of increasing visibility about the work being done by CTSI in Kannapolis as a way to familiarize people with clinical research, and she makes an effort to spend time engaging with and volunteering in the community. Currently, Perla sits on boards for the Community Free Clinic of Cabarrus County, the Cabarrus Art Council, the Rotary Club of Cabarrus County, and Habitat for Humanity of Cabarrus County, to name a few.

“I always want people to feel comfortable about understanding research and being a part of research,” Perla said. “Being able to gain trust is important so that when you have a study, you can reach out [to the community] for support.”

Perla has been a part of the Duke community since 2009, when she joined the team as a coordinator for the MURDOCK Study. Having worked at Hoffman La Roche in drug discovery and with Carolinas HealthCare System’s Cannon Research Center in research and development, Perla was excited to learn more about another aspect of research. And as a fluent Spanish speaker, she would get to use her language skills to help recruit and enroll members of the Latino community in studies.

“I had never been able to use Spanish for work before,” Perla said. “I was excited to become involved in the community and continue to work on research I loved. And coming to work on the North Carolina Research Campus was an added bonus since I live in Cabarrus County.”

Perla’s favorite part of her work has always been interacting with people, especially one-on-one. When she was enrolling people in the MURDOCK Study, she made sure to give them time to say whatever they wanted to her. “We serve a lot of different people, from the very affluent to underserved populations,” she said. “I make sure I take the time to listen to people. I care a lot about people and I never want them to feel rushed or that we don’t care about what they are telling us.”

When she’s not at work, Perla is still an active and engaged member of her community. She loves dancing and tries to attend Zumba classes a few times a week. She’s modeled in local fashion show charity events and even participated in a local, Dancing with the Stars-style competition, where she performed a salsa. “People always know, when they have a crazy idea, to call Perla because Perla never says no,” she said.

Above all, Perla is a firm believer that good work comes from doing something you love. She loves the day-to-day responsibilities of her role, but she also loves the overall mission of her work with CTSI. “We’re working to improve the medical practice and help people find ways to get treatment,” she said. “Research, to me, is my way to pay it forward - if I can help somebody else, it’s worth it.”