Advancing the Role of Social Work as an Agent of Health Care Transformation
The first of its kind in the nation, the Department of Health Social Work is a collaboration of Dell Medical School and the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin — pending final approval by the the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Jointly operated by both schools, the department creates a formalized structure of collaboration to support their shared interprofessional missions.
Areas of Focus
Members of the department provide direct services to patients at UT Health Austin, the clinical practice of Dell Med, and other care settings in Travis County. Social workers play a key role in UT Health Austin’s team-based approach, collaborating with physicians, nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, physical therapists and other skilled care providers to ensure that all aspects of a patient’s well-being are addressed. This idea of a holistic approach to health is why Donna Shanor, director of clinical social work at UT Health Austin, has dedicated her life to social work.
Social workers at Dell Med and UT Health Austin are trained to provide patients with culturally sensitive person-in-environment approached interventions that respond to the needs of underrepresented communities in care.
The department helps develop and implement Dell Med’s existing interprofessional curriculum in addition to partnering with the Center for Health Interprofessional Practice and Education. The center leads UT Austin’s efforts to transform health professions education.
The department serves as an academic home for clinical and nonclinical social workers, supporting practitioners in disciplines ranging from population health and surgery to oncology and pediatrics. The team creates opportunities for social workers to learn and exchange knowledge on state-of-the-art practices in the field while also connecting them to existing resources on campus.
Embedding social workers in the medical school ensures that their vital expertise is included in work to evolve new models of person-centered, multidisciplinary care that reward value. The department weaves social work into Dell Med’s pillars of education, clinical care, research and community impact.
A social worker starts where the person is and helps identify what matters most to each person. That’s essential in building a health system that places value on better health outcomes based on each individual’s needs.
S. Claiborne “Clay“ Johnston, M.D., Ph.D., Dean
Hear more from Dean Johnston about the department’s approach and impact.