Dr. Leah Bouchard is the director of research and data management at the NC Rural Center. A social justice researcher by trade, she has led and collaborated with other researchers on projects including but not limited to opioid misuse prevention efforts by rural parents/caregivers, trauma-informed drug prevention, migration motives of rural young women, reproductive autonomy of young and rural Appalachian women, and the experiences of rural LGBTQ+ youth with victimization and resilience. Her work has been published in national and international academic journals and she has presented her research in the United States and in Ireland. She received her research training through the PhD program at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Social Work in Richmond, VA. Her scholarship and training is focused specifically on the etiology and criminalization of adolescent substance use situated in the social, cultural, and geographic context of rural communities. Her research explores how substance use and its consequences are differently experienced by marginalized groups, specifically rural LGBTQ+ youth.
Dr. Bouchard believes in using research as a force for good by making it meaningful, accessible, and methodologically sound. She has experience in both qualitative and quantitative research, and is passionate about the public dissemination of research findings. She also believes in educating the public on the critical consumption of research. Dr. Bouchard was named a Rural Health Fellow in 2022 through the National Rural Health Association and continues her advocacy for accessible and culturally-specific adolescent substance use prevention and intervention in rural spaces.
Dr. Bouchard has a background in policy, social work, and higher education. She began her policy and advocacy work at the Ahlquist Center for Policy, Advocacy + Innovation at Children’s Home + Aid in Chicago, IL. Following the completion of her Master’s at the University of Chicago, Dr. Bouchard worked for Youth Villages in Johnson City, TN as an in-home therapist where she conducted Multisystemic Therapy (MST) and Contingency Management (CM) with youth involved in the juvenile justice system with co-occurring substance misuse. While completing her PhD at Virginia Commonwealth University, she taught research methods and quantitative data analysis at the undergraduate- and graduate-level in the School of Social Work.
Dr. Bouchard received her Bachelor of Social Work from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC and received a Master of Arts in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. She received her PhD from Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Social Work in 2022. Originally from Western NC, Dr. Bouchard spent several years living between Chicago, IL, Johnson City, TN, and Richmond, VA and feels very fortunate to have made it back to her home state. In her free time, she prefers to be outdoors, reading a book, writing, painting, or seeking out any and all live music.