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New Faculty with Expertise in Racism and Health Joining YSPH

March 19, 2021

The Yale School of Public Health will welcome two new faculty members with expertise in racism and health in the coming academic year.

The announcement is the latest in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences’ broad push to develop interdisciplinary solutions to racism and to promote health equity. The department launched its search for new faculty members to deepen its existing focus on social justice and structural determinants of health, as well as augment the new concentration on U.S. Health and Justice.

“We are ecstatic to have these two extraordinary scholars to join the SBS family and continue our mission to build SBS to be a leading force for social justice and health equity,” said department Chair Trace Kershaw, Ph.D. “The focus on racism as a fundamental determinant of health is a top priority.”

Ijeoma Opara, Ph.D., currently an assistant professor of social work at Stony Brook University, examines how socio-cultural factors like systemic racism influence substance use and sexual health among Black and Latinx youth. At Yale, she will use community-participatory approaches to develop interventions that foster racial pride and empowerment particularly for Black girls.

Her research has already received national recognition; In 2020, Opara became the first social worker to receive the NIH Director’s Early Independence Award — and a $1.84 million grant to continue her work over five years, among other honors.

Opara is also working to develop a course on Community Based Participatory Research for SBS and the U.S. Health & Justice Concentration. She will join SBS this July.

“Her demonstrated success in forming equitable community research will be an asset to the school and to Yale more broadly,” Kershaw said.

The other new faculty member, Chelsey Carter, a joint M.P.H.-Ph.D. candidate at Washington University in St. Louis, will bring extensive research experience in the intersection of race, class, gender and chronic disease. Her dissertation, rooted in decolonizing and Black feminist methodologies, used 24 months of ethnographic research in post-Ferguson St. Louis to examine how epistemological biases around amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are generated and sustained in scientific research, in public awareness campaigns and among persons living with ALS. Beyond her research on neuromuscular conditions, the theoretical advances present in Carter’s work have broad implications for addressing medical racism and its impact on Black communities. For example, she has a new project exploring the trajectory of cannabis use for older Black adults engaged in end-of-life care and how that use shapes health and identity.

Carter’s scholarship has been recognized and funded by the Ford Foundation, National Science Foundation (NSF), the Andrew Mellon Foundation, and the Wenner Gren Foundation. Her work has also been honored by the Majorie Shostak Award for Excellence in Ethnographic Writing and the Heart of Emory award. Carter will spend the coming academic year as a Presidential Fellow at Princeton University, where will she develop a book project based on her dissertation and build anti-racism initiatives in the Center on Transnational Policing under the direction of Dr. Laurence Ralph. Carter will join SBS in July of 2022 and will have a secondary appointment in the Department of Anthropology.

“We are ecstatic to have these two extraordinary researchers join our school and our department. Their scholarship and expertise will allow us to further address the insidious connection between systemic racism and public health,” Kershaw said.

Submitted by Ivette Aquilino on March 19, 2021