Ijeoma Opara, LMSW, is a doctoral candidate 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) and Project Community Organizing for Prevention Education (Project COPE). P-CASA aims to reduce adolescent access to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Project COPE provides a community based HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, and viral hepatitis educational intervention to ethnic minority youth in Paterson, NJ. As a research fellow, Ms. Opara evaluates both programs, disseminates data and findings to community stakeholders, and facilitates the Project COPE intervention to youth and youth adults within their community.
Before pursuing her doctorate, Ms. Opara served as a youth and family therapist for an alternative-to-incarceration agency in New York City, in which role she primarily served urban youth of color and their families. She served as the Assistant Director for the supportive housing division at a large child welfare organization in Westchester County, NY, which served youth transitioning from foster care to independent living. She previously served as a care coordinator for a home healthcare agency in Union County, NJ. She was selected as a Centers for Disease Control & Prevention extern, and 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 work at the American Public Health Association and various other conferences.
Ms. Opara’s research interests include: racial disparities in health outcomes, sexual health disparities, HIV/AIDS, adolescent development, adolescent girls of color, quantitative methods, and positive youth development. She was named a Population Health Scholar by AcademyHealth for her work addressing adolescent health disaprities through research, policy change, and intervention in urban communities. She received the New Writer’s Fellowship for early-career researchers from the Family Process Institute. During her studies at NYU, she received a SAMHSA/HRSA fellowship, which provided her with 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.
Ms. Opara holds a BA in Psychology from the New Jersey City University, a master’s of public health in epidemiology from New York Medical College, and a master’s of social work from New York University. She attended the University of Pennsylvania for post-baccalaureate pre-health coursework.