Healthcare is a growing field, and more and more hospitals, clinics, and treatment centers are recognizing the need to include social workers on their team in order to provide comprehensive services that meet the varied health needs of clients. Medical social workers collaborate with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers to ensure the best care for a patient and their family. Usually based in hospitals and other healthcare settings, medical social workers provide vital emotional support to patients and their family members as they confront the challenges of new diagnoses, chronic illness, unexpected health conditions, surgery and recovery, and sometimes, death.

There is a tremendous need for social workers in the healthcare field, and these pioneering medical social workers can serve as an inspiration to anyone interested in a career in healthcare. Their commitment to improving the lives of patients, finding innovative ways to strengthen healthcare service provision, supporting the whole family system during times of medical crisis, and developing client-centered healthcare policy is a testament to the impact that medical social workers can make in the health arena.

  1. Jean Tucker-Mann – Recipient of the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award in Social Work from the NASW, Jean Tucker-Mann is a social worker who has dedicated her career to medical social work in the areas of palliative care, end-of-life counseling, and bereavement counseling. Jean has held numerous positions in the field, including Administrator/Director of the Department of Social Work for the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), Deputy Director of Human Development for Baltimore City, and Human Resource Director for Community Building in Partnership Inc. Jean’s work in the Maryland community has been recognized through numerous other awards throughout her long career as a social worker.

  2. Harold Lipton – Harold Lipton is a renowned hospital social worker who has held positions in Ohio, Washington, D.C., and California. He received the 2015 NASW Lifetime Achievement Award in Social Work, recognizing him “as a leader for decades in hospital social services.” Lipton began his career in medical social work in the 1960’s at the VA Hospital in New York, providing therapeutic services to Vietnam veterans. He went on to serve in several leadership positions, including as the Director of Social Services at 4 different hospitals. As an expert in the field of medical social work, Lipton has also published many articles and several books on the subject, making a substantial contribution to the field.

  3. Gail Gunter Hunt – Focusing on women’s health, Gail Gunter Hunt has been a leader in the field of medical social work. Hunt has served as the Women Veterans Program Manager at the VA Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin for a number of years, where, according to the NASW, her work has focused on providing “sensitive and competent care to women veterans.” Hunt was awarded the Under Secretary of Health’s Award for Excellence in Social Work Leadership, recognizing her leadership and impact in the Veteran Affairs system. Hunt has also been involved in training primary care providers in the United States by developing the National Women’s Health Mini-Residency Program. Her research and extensive publication record focuses on women’s health and geriatric care.

  4. Carolyn Messner – A renowned oncology social worker, Carolyn Messner is currently the Director of Education and Training at Cancercare. Messner has attained a Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) and received considerable recognition for her work with cancer patients and survivors, including The Oncology Social Worker of the Year Award from the Association of Oncology Social Work in 2012, and the Hyman J. Weiner Award from the Society for Social Work Leaders in Health Care in 2013. In 2015, Messner was named a fellow of the American Psychosocial Oncology Society. For several decades, Messner’s work has focused on the emotional and practical impacts of cancer, and her research interests include palliative care and hospice care.

  5. Abraham Lurie – Abraham Lurie is considered “one of the great innovators of social work,” and much of his career focused on medical social work and public health. Lurie held positions in numerous hospitals, including Director of the Social Work Department at the Long Island Hillside Medical Center. During his career, he also acted as a consultant for the Nassau County Mental Health Association and the United States Public Health Service. His work has been recognized by many institutions through various awards, including the Ida M. Cannon Award from the Society of Hospital Social Work Directors, and the Hy Weiner Award from the American Hospital Association.

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