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Ijeoma Opara

Associate Professor of Public Health (Social and Behavioral Sciences); Director, The SASH Lab, Yale School of Public Health; Co-Director of Yale AIDS Prevention Training Program (T32), Yale School of Public Health; Associate Director, Justice, Community Capacity, Equity (JuCCE) Core, Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS, Yale University

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Ijeoma Opara, PhD, LMSW, MPH



Dr. Ijeoma Opara is an Associate Professor of Public Health in the Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences at the School of Public Health. She is also the founder and director of the Substance Abuse & Sexual Health Lab ( Her research interests focus on HIV/AIDS, STI, and substance use prevention for urban youth, racial and gender specific prevention interventions for Black girls, and community-based participatory research with urban youth. Dr. Opara has received many awards for her work in prevention research from the American Public Health Association, National Council on Family Relations, and AcademyHealth. Most recently, Dr. Opara was named the 2023 recipient of the NIDA Racial Equity Initiative Visionary Pioneer Award to conduct community-based participatory work in Paterson and East Orange, New Jersey. In 2020, Dr. Opara was named the NIH Director's Early Independence Award, which funds her 5-year community-based study on youth substance use, mental health outcomes, and neighborhoods in Paterson, New Jersey. The Early Independence Award is given to junior scientists through the High Risk-High Reward program, whom who have demonstrated exceptional ability to engage in independent research and Dr. Opara was the first social worker to ever receive this award.

Dr. Opara's teaching experiences includes her former appointment as an Assistant Professor at Stony Brook University School of Social Welfare from 2019-2021, where she taught graduate-level child and family social work practice courses. She also worked as an adjunct professor at Columbia University School of Social Work teaching a graduate level adolescent development course and at Rutgers University Bloustein School of Planning & Social Policy where she taught an undergraduate social justice in public health course.

Dr. Opara received her PhD in Family Science & Human Development at Montclair State University, a Master of Social Work from New York University (with a specialization in Primary & Behavioral Health Integrated Care), a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from New York Medical College, and a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology from New Jersey City University. During her doctoral studies, Dr. Opara received an external pre-doctoral fellowship from the Behavioral Sciences Training on Drug Abuse Research housed at New York University funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse which funded her dissertation research and doctoral training.

Education & Training

  • NIDA T-32 funded pre-doctoral fellow
    New York University (2019)
  • PhD
    Montclair State University, Family Science & Human Development (2019)
  • MSW
    New York University (2014)
  • MPH
    New York Medical College, Epidemiology (2011)
  • BA
    New Jersey City University, Psychology (2009)

Honors & Recognition

AwardAwarding OrganizationDate
Community Impact AwardCouncil on Social Work Education2023
NIDA Pioneer AwardNational Institute on Drug Abuse2023
Woman of Impact AwardCommunity Healthcare Network-Nigeria2022
Distinguished Student Mentoring AwardYale School of Public Health2022
NIH Loan Repayment ProgramNational Institute on Drug Abuse, Health Disparities Research2021
NIH Director's Early Independence AwardNational Institutes of Health, Office of the Director, Common Fund2020
John D. Slade, MD Memorial Advocacy AwardAmerican Public Health Association (APHA), Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs (ATOD) section2019
Community Mobilizer of The YearPaterson Coalition Against Substance Abuse, Montclair State University2019
Outstanding Student Poster Award on Drug Use PreventionAmerican Public Health Association (APHA), Alcohol, Tobacco, and other drugs (ATOD) section2018
John L. and Harriette P. McAdoo Dissertation AwardNational Council on Family Relations2018
New Writers Initiative FellowshipFamily Process2017
Top 100 Women Ending the HIV EpidemicPOZ Magazine2017
Population Health ScholarAcademyHealth2017

Departments & Organizations