Ijeoma Opara is currently a fulltime doctoral student at Montclair State University in the Department of Family Science and Human Development. She is also a doctoral research fellow under two federally funded programs, Paterson Coalition Against Substance Abuse (P-CASA) & Project Community Organizing for Prevention Education (Project COPE). P-CASA is a drug free communities/ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant that aims to reduce adolescent access to alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs. Project COPE is a minority AIDS initiative grant that provides a community based HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, & viral hepatitis educational intervention to ethnic minority youth in Paterson, NJ. Ijeoma’s primary role as a research fellow is to evaluate both programs, disseminate data and findings to community stakeholders, and facilitate the Project COPE intervention to youth and youth adults within their community. Both programs aim to address adolescent health disparities in Paterson, New Jersey by increasing awareness and prevention education, utilizing youth empowerment principles, and community mobilizing to inform policy change in order to reduce health disparities.
Ijeoma has a vast array of work experience in the field of adolescent and family clinical social work and practice. Before pursuing her doctorate, Ijeoma worked as a youth and family therapist for an alternative-to-incarceration agency in New York City where she primarily served urban youth of color and their families. Ijeoma was also employed as the Assistant Director of supportive housing division at a large child welfare organization in Westchester County, New York that served youth transitioning from foster care to independent living. She was also previously employed as a care coordinator for a home healthcare agency in Union County, New Jersey for several years. Additionally, Ijeoma was selected as a Centers for Disease Control & Prevention extern where she was placed at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to conduct research on racial disparities in asthma morbidity in African American children. She has presented her work at the American Public Health Association and various other conferences.
Ijeoma is a licensed social worker in both New Jersey and the state of New York. Her primary areas of research interests and expertise include: racial disparities in health outcomes, sexual health disparities, HIV/AIDS, adolescent development, adolescent girls of color, quantitative methods, & positive youth development.
Ijeoma was recently awarded by AcademyHealth as a population health scholar due to her work in addressing adolescent health disparities through research, policy change, and intervention in urban communities. She was also recently awarded the New Writer’s Fellowship, a highly coveted award given to early career researchers by the Family Process Institute.
Ijeoma received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from New Jersey City University, a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from New York Medical College and a Master of Social Work from New York University. While at NYU, she received a competitive SAMHSA/HRSA fellowship that provided core strategies on the integration of primary and behavioral healthcare in order to improve the lives of homeless women of color and veterans in New York City. Ijeoma also attended University of Pennsylvania for post-baccalaureate pre-health coursework.