Dr. Ijeoma Opara, PhD, LMSW, MPH

Director And Principal Investigator

Dr. Opara is an Associate Professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Yale School of Public Health and the Director of The SASH Lab at Yale. Dr. Opara’s research interests focus on using strengths-based approaches to preventing substance misuse and improving sexual health outcomes for youth of color. Her secondary focus involves developing race and gender specific prevention interventions for Black adolescent girls that incorporate empowerment and ethnic identity principles. Dr. Opara has received many awards for her work including her latest grant, the 2023 NIDA Racial Equity Initiative Visionary Award, 2020 NIH Director’s Early Independence Award which is given to exceptional, creative early-career scientists who are conducting high-impact research, the John D. Slade Memorial Advocacy Award from the American Public Health Association, AcademyHealth Population Health Scholar, and was named the Top 100 Women by POZ Magazine to end the HIV epidemic.

Dr. Opara received a PhD in Family Science and Human Development from Montclair State University, a Master of Social Work from Silver School of Social Work at New York University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from New Jersey City University and an Associates of Arts in Psychology from Union County College in New Jersey.

During her doctoral training at Montclair, Dr. Opara received a training grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) as a pre-doctoral fellow in the Behavioral Sciences Training in Drug Abuse program at New York University to fund her doctoral training and dissertation study. Dr. Opara’s dissertation entitled, “Exploring the Role of Social Support, Ethnic Identity, and Psychological Empowerment on Drug Use and Sexual Risk Behavior among urban Black and Hispanic Female Adolescents” used empowerment theory and intersectionality theory as frameworks to highlight protective factors for girls of color while also acknowledging the unique social locations that Black and Hispanic girls belong to. Dr. Opara presented preliminary findings of her dissertation research at the International AIDS Society conference, held in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 2018. Dr. Opara’s dissertation was awarded the John L. and Harriette P. McAdoo Dissertation Award, for its focus on promoting strengths that are present within Black and Hispanic families, girls, and communities and moving away from a deficit perspective often found in prevention research.

Personal Website: www.ijeomaopara.com

Yale Faculty Profile: https://ysph.yale.edu/profile/ijeoma_opara/