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Social Workers: Leaders. Advocates. Champions


By Marie Salimbeni, Stephani Beard, Desiree Foy and Lisa Henderson

Department of Social Work, WRNMMC



Every March, the nation celebrates National Professional Social Work Month and recognizes the contributions of social workers health care and the community. The National Association of Social Work (NASW) designated this year’s theme as “Social Workers: Leaders. Advocates. Champions.”

Stephani Beard, Desiree Foy and Lisa Henderson, three Walter Reed National Military Medical Center student interns from the University of Alabama who are studying to earn master’s degrees in social work, wrote the following in regards to this year’s theme for National Professional Social Work Month.


“The social work profession was founded in social change. Throughout the profession’s history, social workers have sought to ensure that all people have equal access to the resources and opportunities that allow them to meet their basic needs,” states the NASW.

Advocacy in social work provides a vehicle for transformation in a representative society. Social workers are essential to promoting policies that help individuals, families and communities.


Improvise, adapt and overcome may be an unofficial mantra of the Marine Corps, but its echoes can also be heard among social workers as they face problems head-on and work to make the impossible possible for countless individuals daily. For instance, consider the social worker who helps the elderly navigate a complex health-care system, or another social worker who helps children in need of special accommodations obtain access to a proper education when it seems all resources have been exhausted. This is what it means to be a social worker; this is what it means to be a champion: striving restlessly and bravely towards a goal, allowing an obstacle to serve as no more than a stumbling block.

This is also evident in a military setting. Social workers act as champions for service members and their families in every department of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. They act as champions to ensure everyone served by WRNMMC is aware of and benefits from the resources a  beneficiary may otherwise not be aware existed. The championing efforts of social workers at WRNMMC contribute to serving the nation’s heroes and their families.


Every social worker is called to action, and every action is guided by the Code of Ethics. In it, six core values of social work are listed: service; social justice; dignity and worth of the person; importance of human relationships; integrity; and competence. These values would be abstract concepts and demonstrating them would not be possible without one additional variable: leadership. In order to adhere to the Code of Ethics, social workers often must be willing to challenge the status quo and speak bravely for those who cannot speak for themselves. This is not a feat for followers, but for leaders.

Social workers act as leaders on many levels. Some form local nonprofit start-ups serving to meet unmet community needs. Others serve as Congress members working to advocate for social justice through law-making. Perhaps what is unique about leadership in this profession is the goal of those who lead. Social workers aim to inspire hope, facilitate societal change, and empower individuals (there is a desire for growth and fairness for all people, especially those who are vulnerable or underprivileged). This is why every social worker is – and must be – an advocate, a champion and a leader.