Dr. Charles H. Lea III is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Columbia University and a Faculty Affiliate of the Columbia Population Research Center. He uses qualitative, mixed, art, and community-based and youth participatory research methods to investigate structural and cultural determinants of health and well-being among Black youth and young adults at risk and involved with the juvenile/criminal legal system. His program of research focuses on (1) anti-Black racism as a driver of racial inequities in educational, health (mental, substance use, HIV/STI), and carceral outcomes; (2) cultural predictors of educational and health equity; and (3) the implementation of multilevel, culturally grounded health prevention and treatment interventions. Through this work, Dr. Lea aims to develop knowledge and build theories that inform racially just and liberatory policies, programs, and practices that promote healing and healthy development among Black youth and young adults, especially young men, and lessen their risk for health-compromising behaviors, arrest, incarceration, and recidivism.
Dr. Lea’s research is informed by his practice experience with racial/ethnic minoritized young people in community, educational, and correctional settings; prior research on reentry, school reform, and workforce and youth development policies, programs, and practices; and training in qualitative methodology and participatory action research. His research is also informed by his NIH T32 fellowship with the Indigenous, Substance Abuse, Medicines and Additions Research Training Program (I-SMAR), NIH T32 fellowship with the HIV/AIDS, Substance Use, and Trauma Training Program (HA-STTP), and NIH R25 fellowship with the Helping Everyone Achieve LifeTime Health Future Addiction Scientist Training Program (HEALTH-FAST).
Before joining the School of Social Work in 2022, Dr. Lea was an assistant professor of social work at the University of Washington and the University of Houston. He received his PhD in social welfare from the University of California, Los Angeles; MSW from the University of Michigan; and bachelor’s in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley.