The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed existing systemic inequities in the United States’  health care system and highlighted the need for accessible, inclusive whole person care.

The profession of social work has historically responded to crisis with a person-in-environment perspective focused on social justice, a framework which has been essential during this pandemic. However, social workers in healthcare settings are often fragmented and disconnected from each other, which can inhibit their ability to provide coordinated community responses.

In a recent article published in Social Work in Health Care, Barbara Jones and co-authors describe how the first-of-its-kind department of health social work in a medical school created a unifying structure for social work professionals embedded in teams across the healthcare system. This unified structured allowed for a rapid and thorough social work response to the pandemic in the community.

Barbara Jones is associate dean for health affairs at the Steve Hicks School and chair of the Department of Health Social Work, a collaboration between the Steve Hicks School and the Dell Medical School.