Dr. Ijeoma Opara
Director of The SASH Lab
Dr. Ijeoma Opara is an Assistant Professor of Social Work in the School of Social Welfare at SUNY Stony Brook University. Dr. Opara is also Visiting Faculty at Yale University's Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS in the Yale School of Public Health.
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.
Dr. Opara's research interests focus on using strengths-based approaches to reduce substance use and sexual health disparities among youth of color.
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, "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" which used empowerment theory and intersectionality theory as a framework 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.
During her MSW program, Dr. Opara was selected in the inaugural cohort of the SAMHSA funded Behavioral and Primary Health Care Integrated Fellowship at New York University. Dr. Opara was also awarded a research internship funded by the CDC and placed at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics to conduct research on asthma morbidity among African Americans in Baltimore.
Dr. Opara has received many awards for her work including the John D. Slade Memorial Advocacy Award from the American Public Health Association Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs section, the AcademyHealth Population Health Scholar, and was named the Top 100 Women by POZ Magazine to end the HIV epidemic. Dr. Opara recently received the 2020 NIH Director's Early Independence Award which is given to exceptional, creative early career scientists whom are conducting high impact research.
Dr. Opara envisions a world where health disparities that impact Black and Brown youth will no longer exist, Black and Brown girls be nurtured and viewed as leaders, and youth of color will be safe in a world that believes in their success.