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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. 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 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 health beyond the clinic. The Department of Health Social Work is home to the Institute for Military and Veteran Family Wellness.

The department also plays a key role in reimagining the entire continuum of care for brain health as part of the Austin State Hospital redesign led by Dell Medical School in partnership with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Researchers, clinicians, physicians in training, social workers and youth advocates partner together to address the full spectrum of care for mental health, supporting people and families in Central Texas and beyond. Download an overview to learn more about the collaborative approach.

Degree Programs

The Steve Hicks School of Social Work is home to undergraduate and graduate degree programs for those interested in careers as professional social workers.

COVID-19 Resource Toolkit

The Department of Health Social Work is committed to supporting people affected by COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) and the response to it. As part of that work, the department has created a toolkit with resources to help community members, health care workers and beyond cope with the changes — both psychologically and concretely.

In the Media

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