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Social workers can be found in several settings, like hospitals, mental health clinics, home health services, hospice facilities, private practices, nonprofits, government agencies, and more. Social work might just be one of the most diverse professions out there.
Today, we want to thank social workers for all that they do in our society and highlight a few social workers who have left their mark on the world.
Social workers can commonly be found in hospitals and other healthcare settings thanks to social work pioneer Ida Cannon. Ida began her career as a nurse in 1898 and, after hearing a lecture by the “mother of social work,” Jane Addams, learned about the connection between living in poverty and health (Social Welfare History Project, 2012). After working as a visiting nurse in Minnesota for several years, Ida enrolled in the School for Social Workers in Boston, Massachusetts (Social Welfare History Project). Ida went on to work at Massachusetts General Hospital with patients from underserved populations and eventually became Chair of Social Services (Social Welfare History Project). She is considered one of the foremothers of medical social work to this day.
Today, social workers can also be found in the halls of government. One notable social worker in this field is Whitney Young, known widely as the co-author of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty (NASW). Whitney finished his Master of Social Work degree at the University of Minnesota in 1947 and began working for the Urban League of Nebraska in 1950 (NASW). He dedicated his career to addressing systemic inequalities like poverty and racism, becoming the director of the National Urban League in 1962 (NASW). Whitney also served as president of the National Association of Social Workers from 1969 to 1971, a time marked by unrest surrounding the civil rights of Black Americans, the war in Vietnam, and addressing the impact of poverty in the United States (NASW).
Dr. Black is well-known for her contributions to social work education and research over the past 50 years (CSWE, 2017). She received her BA and MSW from McGill University in Canada and received a doctorate from the National Catholic School for Social Services (CSWE). Dr. Black is a leader in the social work field for her role in molding the next generation of social workers. Her research has spanned a variety of topics, from healthcare and hospice work to ethics and practice evaluation. Notably, Dr. Black’s work with the Council on Social Work Education marked a shift from a content-based evaluation of social work learning to a competency-based model (2017). Not only did this change how social work students were taught, but it also changed how they practiced.
These three outstanding social workers are only a few representatives of the vast diversity within their field. They are each known for their willingness to blaze a new trail for the betterment of our society—a value intrinsic to social workers.
Today and every day, we want to acknowledge the social workers who step up to the plate and keep our world running. Thank you for all that you do.
Social Welfare History Project (2012). Ida Cannon (1877-1960) – Social worker, nurse, author and founder of medical social work. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved 27 January, 2023 from https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/people/cannon-ida-maude/.
National Association of Social Workers . (2017, October 10). Whitney M. Young, Jr. National Association of Social Workers (NASW). Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://www.socialworkers.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=8MP84GYP8i8%3D&portalid=0.
Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). (2017). Dr. Phyllis Black. Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://www.cswe.org/about-cswe/awards/2017-awardees/dr-phyllis-black/.