Thinking healthcare? Think social work

New technologies, novel models of collaborative care, and a renewed emphasis in health systems and social issues are revolutionizing healthcare education across the country.

At UT Austin, the School of Social Work is an integral part of this revolution.

Since 2012, under the leadership of associate dean for health affairs Barbara Jones, social work students have trained together with peers in medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and other health professions through Interprofessional Education (IPE) initiatives.

Training opportunities have included elective courses, medical simulations, research positions, and internships.

In 2016, interprofessional opportunities for social work students expanded dramatically with the opening of the Dell Medical School, the first medical school in nearly 50 years to be built from the ground up at a top-tier research university.

The medical school has an innovative four-year curriculum that fully integrates IPE, with the goal of producing physicians who are prepared for interprofessional collaborative practice.

In 2016, the School of Social Work launched the UT HEALS program, thanks to five-year grant from the Council in Social Work Education, the National Association of Social Workers, and the New York Community Trust.

UT HEALS, directed by clinical assistant professor Dede Sparks, supports two students in the bachelor’s program and two students in the master’s program. Each student commits to social work education focused on healthcare, a field placement in a healthcare setting, and traveling to a healthcare social work education and policy event in Washington, DC. The program also supports UT HEALS field instructors to attend the national conference of the Society for Social Work Leadership in Healthcare, which is held annually.

Many of the School of Social Work’s initiatives related to healthcare converge at the Institute for Collaborative Health Research and Practice. This institute brings together practice and research professionals to investigate and promote the health and well being of children, adults, and families.