Each year Social Work Today asks its readers to nominate their top-ten colleagues for outstanding service in the field. I like to publish the list here on our blog as a form of recognition and congratulations. However, what caught my eye this year was the element of a “calling” in each of their stories. To these successful case workers, social work is so much more than a job.
Social Work’s Top Ten
(Chosen by their colleagues)
1. Beverly Able, BSW
Social Worker and Admissions Coordinator at The Glebe in Daleville, VA.
Beverly’s aunt, who was mentally challenged, came to live with her when she was a child. Beverly was exposed to social workers her entire life—and she knew it was her calling. The past 14 years of her career have been spent at The Glebe, a nonprofit retirement community where she is committed to resident advocacy.
2. Leticia Cavazos, DSW, LMSW, LCDC - Chief Program Officer for The Gatehouse in Grapevine, TX.
Having become pregnant as a teenager and stuck in an abusive relationship, Leticia (“Leti”) Cavazos says that it took some time to “find her bearings,” but she knew that she wanted to help others—and that lead her to pursue a degree in social work.
3. Laura Guzzi, MSW, LCSW - Medical Social Worker at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis.
One day, while working with a preschooler on pronunciation goals, he climbed into her lap and asked whether they could “just talk.” He had just found out that day that his mom and dad were getting a divorce. It was through that experience—and others like it—that Guzzi recognized her true calling was in social work.
4. Marrie Hibbard, MSW - Psychiatric Liaison at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction, CO.
Experiencing the Social Worker’s diminished role in the medical profession early in her career, Hibbard has made it a goal to form collaborative relationships and elevate the role of the social worker as a respected clinician within the community. She foresees even greater collaborative care as the future of the profession.
5. Kaitlin Puckett, MSSW, LMSW -Social Worker in Comprehensive Care Management at Baylor Scott and White Medical Center in Marble Falls, TX.
With one brother living with a disability and another living with cancer, Kaitlin Puckett spent a lot of time in hospitals when she was growing up—an experience that undoubtedly shaped her career path.
6. Amanda Quine, LCSW - School Social Worker for Tumbleweed School in Phoenix
Amanda Quine says that she always knew she wanted to work with kids and their families—she just didn’t know what that was called. Being from a small town in Ohio, Quine never heard of the social work profession, but some research revealed it was exactly where her heart was leading her.
7. Joan Sass, LCSW - Clinical Director at Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens
Joan Sass says that social work was a “calling,” and something she always knew she was destined to do.
8. Cheryl Steffen, LCSW - Clinical Social Worker at San Gorgonio Memorial Hospital in Banning, CA.
Steffen (now age 74) can reflect on her father’s sudden passing in the ICU when she was only 29 years old, and how it caused her to recognize that the “languages spoken by doctors and nurses do not always translate easily to the patient.” That “missing link,” as she calls it, is what she always aims to fill when she’s working with patients and their families.
9. Beth Wahler, PhD, MSW - Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor at Indiana University School of Social Work.
For Beth Wahler, a career in social work was a “happy accident.” While pursuing an undergraduate degree in psychology (and a minor in sociology), Wahler was in a placement where there was an LCSW—and she realized a social work career would be the perfect fit, combining a love for helping people with an acknowledgement of how social and environmental circumstances impact people.
10. Sharon Walden, BSW - Case Manager at CNS Healthcare in Michigan
One of the most inspirational things a client once said to me was that “she felt like she was the kite and I was just holding the string—and I was there if she needed something while she was trying to navigate life.”
(Excerpts from 10 Dedicated & Deserving Social Workers, Lindsey Getz, Social Work Today, Vol.20 No. 1 P.22)
It is clear that each of these outstanding social workers felt called to this “helping” profession. They have spent their lives inspiring others and, therefore, are recognized as one of the top-ten social workers by their colleagues.