Associate Professor of Public Health
Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences
and founding director and principal investigator of The SASH Lab
Dr. Opara has a vast amount of experience in working under federally funded programs. As a PhD student and doctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Family Science and Human Development at Montclair State University, Dr. Opara worked in a SAMHSA funded research lab where she provided support to two programs: Paterson Coalition Against Substance Abuse (P-CASA) & Project Community Organizing for Prevention Education (Project COPE). Dr. Opara’s primary role as a research fellow was to evaluate both programs, disseminate data and findings to community stakeholders, and educate youth and youth adults using an evidence-based curriculum involving HIV/AIDS, Drug Use, and Viral Hepatitis prevention strategies in Paterson, New Jersey.
While pursuing her MPH at New York Medical College, Dr. Opara was selected as a Research Intern in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) RISE program (led by Dr. Harolyn Belcher). As an intern, she was placed at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to conduct research on racial disparities in asthma morbidity in African American children contributed by environmental tobacco smoke under the supervision of (PI: Dr. Arlene Butz).
After receiving her MPH, Dr. Opara briefly attended University of Pennsylvania for post-baccalaureate pre-health coursework. Her passion for working with families and children spurred out of her work at Johns Hopkins and led her to pursue a career in clinical social work. While pursuing her MSW at New York University, she received a competitive federally funded Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration/Health Resources and Services Administration (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.
Dr. Opara received her PhD in Family Science and Human Development at Montclair State University, her Master of Social Work from New York University, Master of Public Health in Epidemiology at New York Medical College and a Bachelor of Arts from New Jersey City University.
Dr. Opara is an Associate Professor at the Yale School of Public Health. She is also the Founder & Director of The Substance Abuse & Sexual Health Lab at Stony Brook University. Previously, Dr. Opara worked at Stony Brook University as an assistant professor and also worked as a lecturer at Columbia School of Social Work. Dr. Opara was recently awarded the NIDA Pioneer Award to conduct five years of research in Paterson and East Orange, NJ. Dr. Opara also received the NIH Early Independence Award which provides 5 years of funding to conduct community-based substance use and mental health research in Paterson, NJ. Dr. Opara also directs a consulting agency that offers trainings to youth, community-based organizations, companies, and schools on various topics related to substance use prevention, sexual health, and more.