Collectively, we make a lasting impact

Darrell Wheeler, Ph.D., MPH, ACSW

The past two months have been busy to say the least, and, for me, fully exhilarating.

Our association and members have been engaged on so many fronts in key issues facing the profession, our clients and the communities in which we serve.

The pace has been rapid and at times daunting, but together we have made so much progress.

The significance of our collective impact is being manifested in more ways than I could possibly capture in this column.

I will highlight a few, but, more importantly, I celebrate the many untold narratives and professional actions that contribute to the strength of our profession.

The political season has been an active time for our association and members. The official endorsement of national and local candidates for key positions is an important role.

As this election cycle has proven particularly divisive on a political spectrum, social workers have participated in many arenas to ensure vulnerable and marginalized groups are not disenfranchised.

We have also worked to keep key issues in health, mental health and human rights on ballots and legislative agendas across the country.

The wisdom, practice skills, and community-organizing strengths of our profession are resources to many in this season of political uncertainty.

In September, colleagues from across the country met to discuss the Grand Challenges, led by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare.

I had the distinct honor of being able to share greetings from NASW and to reinforce the vital link between the academic and practice elements of our professional continuum.

In addition, colleagues from across the country met in Florida in September for the U.S. Conference on AIDS.

This meeting brings together a diverse audience of HIV/AIDS advocates, practitioners, clients, consumers and other key stakeholders for the sole purpose of confronting the ever-changing U.S. epidemic.

There were hundreds of sessions offered as presentations, panels, posters and roundtables. Again, I was so pleased to be part of this significant gathering—and equally pleased to see so many social worker-led sessions.This meeting demonstrated the prominence of our skill sets in a major social justice area.

Closer to home—the national office—I had the pleasure of working with colleagues from around the country to convene an important meeting of the members in August. This special meeting focused on NASW’s modernization initiative.

While not all who participate are always in agreement with the process, what is evident in these discussions and deliberations is the absolute passion we hold for the profession.

Colleagues from many different perspectives presented eloquently diverse and, at times, competing views.

Yet we all managed to agree that the strength of social work is ultimately about the capacity of one profession to make lasting impact for the clients we serve, the policies we support and the one association we value.

Finally, I had a personal transition in my work life. I was asked to serve as interim provost at the University at Albany. This too is a great honor and one that I believe reflects training and skills developed in my professional experiences as a social worker.

As I said at the outset, it has been a busy two months and I know my experience pales in comparison to so many of you—my colleagues working equally as hard every day in your professional and volunteer capacities.

I salute you and thank you, and reaffirm the strength of our collective work as social workers!

Contact Darrell Wheeler at