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The National Association of Social Workers Foundation Announces the 2009 Ruth Knee/Milton Wittman Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

Washington, D.C. – The National Association of Social Workers Foundation is proud to present Samira K. Beckwith, ACSW, LCSW, FACHE, a leader in hospice and healthcare services, with the 2009 Ruth Knee/Milton Wittman Award for Lifetime Achievement in Health and Mental Health Practice.

Ms.  Beckwith’s personal experiences as a young woman facing a life-threatening illness informed her career in health social work.  She has over 30 years’ experience in professional health care and social services and has served as President and CEO of Hope Healthcare Services, in Fort Myers, Florida, since 1991.

When she joined Hope, the agency was caring for a small number of hospice patients in the immediate Fort Myers area. Under her leadership, Hope has created an array of services for the frail elderly and children, and today serves more than 2,200 people and their families in a 10,000 square-mile area throughout southwest and mid-Florida.

Her career in social work as a “social architect” began unofficially when she was a student at The Ohio State University, where she earned her BA in Sociology and Master’s in Social Work. At that time, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. Spending countless hours and days in the hospital, clinics and doctor’s offices with fellow cancer patients, she realized that medical practice at the time was not advanced in regard to pain control, symptom management – and empathy. That was when she made a promise to herself to use her experience to help others live a better life, even during serious illness or in their final days. That promise became the foundation of her career.

Since then, Samira Beckwith has become a leader in improving and advancing health care on the local, state and national levels. She has pioneered and broadened the continuum of health care, enabling adults to live comfortably and with dignity through old age and at end of life. She has given hope to children through programs to help them cope with illness, grief and dying. Adults with special needs can look forward to a warm meal delivered to their home every day. Frail elderly people, home alone, can count on special caregivers to deliver medicine, monitor their vital signs, and even provide light housecleaning. She has created a new model of health care that has garnered the attention of health care agencies, policy makers and associations around the country.

In developing new and innovative programs of care, she has applied two guiding principles:

  • Improve health care quality and reduce costs
  • Expand coverage and access for everyone in need

In recognition of her work, Florida Governor Jeb Bush described Beckwith as “a visionary who provides leadership on a local and national level – passionate about ensuring the highest quality of service.”

She continues to receive national and international recognition for her work:

  • Stevie Awards for Women in Business – International Lifetime Achievement Award, 2009
  • Alumni Medalist Award – The Ohio State University Alumni Association, 2009
  • The National Association of Social Workers Social Work Pioneer, 2007
  • The Ohio State University College of Social Work Hall of Fame, 2007
  • APEX Award: Tribute to an Outstanding Woman in Business, Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, 2007

Regardless of the scale of her work and her accomplishments, Samira Beckwith maintains her focus as a social worker, committed to meeting the needs of each individual.

It is with great honor that the NASW Foundation presents Samira Beckwith with the Knee/Wittman Lifetime Achievement Award.

For more information about the award, or to interview Samira Beckwith, please contact the NASW Communications Department at (202) 336-8212 or

About the Knee/Wittman Lifetime Achievement Award:
The Knee/Wittman Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes a professional social worker who, over the course of his/her career, has made an exemplary contribution to health/mental health practice. Professional social work practice includes direct or clinical social work, social work education, research, consultation, planning and administration in medical, psychiatric, community mental health, or public health settings. Health/mental health practice includes direct influence on health/mental health problems, issues, populations, or settings. Lifetime career means a person who has spent at least twenty-five (25) years in the field whether currently active or retired.

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The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers with 132,000 members. 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.