Beatriz Perez-Lopes, 55, of East Providence, RI, passed away on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, at home, surrounded by family and friends, after a seven-year battle with breast cancer. Beatriz was born in Cartagena, Colombia in 1964, the daughter of Dr. Rafael Perez and Rosario Camargo Perez. She immigrated to Rhode Island at age 7. Beatriz attended East Providence High School, where she was a standout member of her track and field and cheerleading teams. She graduated from Boston University in 1987 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology and received her Master of Public Health degree from Columbia University in 1993.
Beatriz’s passion for helping others was evident early. After graduating from BU, she became the Coordinator of Peer Education and Training at Dimock Health Center in Roxbury MA, counseling youth about domestic violence and sexual health. At Columbia’s School of Public Health, Beatriz served as an Officer of Research. She held positions investigating physicians’ cancer screening practices; women’s attitudes towards HIV testing and counseling services; body composition during pregnancy; and the impact of trauma on women in recovery from substance abuse.
After graduating from Columbia, Beatriz worked at the Rhode Island Department of Health from 1995–2016. She initially served as the Director of the Violence Against Women Program, later becoming the Manager of the Violence and Injury Prevention Program where she led the development of Rhode Island’s Suicide Prevention program. She administered and authored numerous CDC, NIH, and other grants in the areas of rape prevention and education; youth suicide prevention and early intervention; and sexual violence prevention and education. Beatriz did extensive research on the roles of violence, tobacco use, and seatbelt use in the lives of Rhode Islanders. She worked to reduce injuries in schools, prevent falls in the elderly population, increase understanding of the socio-demographic variations for suicide prevention, and have gun violence recognized and treated as a public health issue.
Beatriz authored and coauthored numerous publications and presentations related to violence, abuse, and injury prevention including the chapter Childhood Sexual Abuse and AIDS in the book Women at Risk: Issues in the Primary Prevention of AIDS (Ann O’Leary, Ph.D. and Loretta Sweet Jemmott, R.N., Ph.D. eds. 1995) for The Community Research Group at the New York Psychiatric Institute. She received the 2007 Women of Excellence Award for Social Service sponsored by the Women’s Center of Rhode Island and is a 2016 inductee into the Day One Rhode Island Hall of Fame for her advocacy for sexual violence prevention. Her tireless efforts in community outreach for public health awareness and violence and injury prevention led to the creation of programs that improve the lives of countless Rhode Islanders every day.
Beatriz’s family, friends, and colleagues will remember her as a vibrant, free spirit who was authentic, passionate, and lit up every room. She was a devoted mother, loving wife, and generous and caring friend who always was actively present in the lives of people dear to her. She was so loved. Beatriz enjoyed walking, yoga, and belly dancing; a thoughtful debate; a good shot of tequila; and a big hug. She was an amazing hugger.
Beatriz will always be in our hearts.
Beatriz is survived by her husband Chris and their two sons, Christopher and Noah, her mother, Rosario, sister Nora Perez Camargo, brothers Hernando Perez, and Guillermo Perez, and many loving nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
A private memorial was held. If you’d like to make a gift in Beatriz’s memory, please sponsor Nora and Susan and #TeamGilda at the TCS New York City Marathon on Sunday, November 1, 2020. Donations will go to Gilda’s Club NYC, which provides free support, health and lifestyle information, and empowerment to cancer patients and their loved ones. You’ll find the GoFundMe page, “In Beatriz’s memory – support #TeamGilda” here: https://gf.me/u/x8dh2y.