Research & Biography

Leyla Ismayilova is an Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. Professor Ismayilova specializes in the development and adaptation of family-based interventions to improve child well-being in the international context and has been involved in international research projects in sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and the former Soviet Union.

Her research agenda focuses on developing culturally congruent interventions to improve mental health functioning and reduce risk behaviors (sexual risk behaviors and substance use) and exposure to violence among at-risk children and youth. She is incorporating computerized multi-media technologies in the delivery of preventive interventions to engage youth and assure intervention fidelity and cost-effectiveness of interventions. Professor Ismayilova is the Principal Investigator on the NIDA-funded study testing a multi-media family-based intervention designed to reduce sexual and drug-related risks among at-risk adolescents living in communities highly affected by heroin trade and use in Almaty, Kazakhstan. 

Professor Ismayilova is also interested in integrating economic empowerment strategies in health and mental health preventive interventions with at-risk children and their families. She is developing a mental health prevention intervention with a family-based economic empowerment component for children from orphanages in Azerbaijan. She is also evaluating a combined economic empowerment and child rights intervention to prevent violence against children and exploitation of children in ultra-poor communities in Burkina Faso. 

At SSA she is teaching courses in applied clinical research and international social work. She has previously taught at Columbia University and New York Univeristy (NYU) Schools of Social Work. In teaching international development classes, she builds on her field experiences ranging from violence prevention programs in war-torn areas of Northern Uganda to child development programs for Iraqi refugees in Jordan. 

She received her PhD and Master's Degree in Social Work from the Columbia University School of Social Work (CUSSW) with a concentration in advanced clinical practice and was among the first Open Society Institute/Soros Foundation fellows from the former Soviet Union at Columbia.

She also holds Bachelor’s and Master's degrees in Psychology from Baku State University (Baku, Azerbaijan). Ismayilova was the founder and director of the Center for Psychological Counseling in Azerbaijan. The Center was the first mental health clinic in the country that provided counseling services to adults, children, and families with various emotional and behavioral problems. Her work experience also includes clinical practice at substance abuse and child and family mental health clinics in New York City.

Throughout the doctoral program at Columbia University School of Social Work (CUSSW) she had been involved in two National Institute of Health/NIH-funded randomized clinical trials testing the family-based economic empowerment model of care and support for AIDS-orphaned children in Uganda and its subsequent adaptation to impoverished communities in Nigeria. During her post-doctoral training at Columbia University Global Health Research Center of Central Asia (GHRCCA), she has served as an investigator on a NIDA-funded clinical trial testing couple-based preventive health intervention for drug users and a NIMH-funded longitudinal epidemiological health study with legal and illegal migrants in Central Asia. 

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