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Denise Juliano-Bult receives Knee/Wittman Lifetime Achievement Award

Denise Julian-Bult

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Association of Social Workers Foundation (NASWF) is pleased to announce that social worker Denise Juliano-Bult will receive the Knee/Wittman Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to the field of mental health and her targeted and long-term support for social work research.

“It is with great pleasure that the NASW Foundation presents this award to Denise Juliano-Bult,” said NASWF Director Robert Arnold. “She has left a legacy at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) where for nearly four decades she was a champion of social work science as a researcher in the field of mental health.” 

The Knee/Wittman Lifetime Achievement Award goes to social workers who have made exemplary contributions in health and mental health practice. The Knee/Wittman Award Program was established in 1990 to recognize those who represent the values, ethics, and approaches exemplified by two dedicated social work pioneers, Ruth Knee (1920-2008) and Milton Wittman (1915-1994).

Juliano-Bult has worn many hats during her 40-year career - social worker, researcher, counsel, case manager, psychotherapist and adjunct professor. The Bethesda, MD resident earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Honors College and her MSW in 1984 from The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

She began her career as a social worker and an outpatient therapist in Washington, D.C. She began working with NIMH performing research in the field of schizophrenia studies in hospitals. She later joined NIMH’s Extramural Research Program in 1992. Six years later, Juliano-Bult was named chief of the Systems Research Program. She was eventually promoted to both the chief of Disparities in Mental Health Services Research Program (2007-2021) and the lead of the Autism Spectrum Disorder Services across the Lifespan Research Program (2010-2021). 

With more than 35 years of continuous professional service at NIMH before her retirement in April 2021, Juliano-Bult is a true champion of social work science. She worked tirelessly advocating for federal support for research by professional social workers and improved services for persons with severe mental illness.
Juliano-Bult also played a critical role in helping the social work profession gain traction in NIMH’s funding portfolio. When she began working at the institute, social workers’ share of funded research was small—with nearly all community-based studies led by psychologists and physicians. This changed considerably during her tenure. There are now many professional social workers receiving NIMH support in the areas of large-scale university-based training and research centers, career development awards, as well as small and large research awards.

This has strengthened the profession’s capacity to create and distribute policy-relevant research that encourages new and effective interventions on behalf of a variety of underserved populations on which social work focuses its attention.

“Ms. Juliano-Bult has a been an educator and strong advocate for the mentally ill and as a long-time NASW member she is a beacon of light for those social workers considering research as part of their social work journeys,” Arnold said.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation (NASWF) is a charitable organization created to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through the advancement of social work practice.