1. Moving Mountains on Behalf of Abused Clients: Kyle Gilrain’s Story

    The course of a social work career does not always run smooth, as CSSW alumnus Kyle Gilrain (MS’96) discovered when he took a job as staff therapist at the National Deaf Academy in Mount Dora, Florida. Noticing the abuse and neglect of patients, he tried reporting it but then was fired from his position. His successor, Carol Savage, likewise blew the whistle and was fired.

    Even after he left, Gilrain could not stop thinking about the children and disabled adults who were stuck in that facility and how much they deserved to have a safe, healthy environment to live in.

    In April 2013 he and Savage filed a lawsuit against the National Deaf Academy, documenting its many abuses, some of which had not been reported to authorities. The academy’s owner is Universal Health Services Inc., a publicly traded $7 billion+ Fortune 500 company. Although UHS Inc. immediately issued a statement defending the academy’s practices, in its 2014 Q2 SEC filings, UHS Inc. said it had been made aware that the academy is under criminal fraud investigation by the FBI/DOJ.

    Gilrain told us he had provided 1,000+ pages of supporting documentation to the FBI/DOJ. He has also assisted several lawyers who are suing the facility on behalf of patients and families. (Three more suits are about to be filed.)

    Interested in hearing Gilrain tell his story? He will be on NBC Nightly News on Sunday night, September 14th. “Stephanie Gosk came to Florida to interview me and the woman who replaced me, Carol Savage,” Gilrain said. UPDATE: Here is the link to the CBS story.

    He added that he credits the Columbia School of Social Work for teaching him how to be an effective advocate for his National Deaf Academy clients.

    In particular, the course “Practice 5: Influencing Organizations, Communities, and Social Policy” provided him with the framework he needed for the pursuit of social justice.

  2. An Alum Communicates Her Vision of Social Services in Schools

    Three cheers for Jenna Tutjer (MS’06)! She had a letter to the editor in the New York Times on Saturday Sept 6th referencing the Achievement Initiative she leads out of the School of Social Work. The letter concerns the crucial role social workers can play in schools.

    To learn more about Jenna’s program, watch this video made by CSSW communications, which includes interviews with a students from one of the Harlem high schools Jenna works with.

  3. A Cool Image for the End of Summer!

    Here at the Columbia School of Social Work, we like to say we’re making waves, as in standing up and advocating on behalf of those who don’t usually advocate for themselves.

    Kim Kepich, who completed her M.S. in clinical social work at our school, is not only making waves, she’s riding them! With her sister Jill, she runs the Surfing the Dream surf school in NJ. But as she told an NJ community newspaper, social work is never far from her thoughts: “Social work is a big help in understanding the feelings of surfing, which helps deal with depression and anxiety. I try to incorporate my education to promote relaxation and a healthy mind in conjunction with surfing,”

  4. Professor Mike MacKenzie’s Letter to the Editor on Ferguson

    Columbia School of Social Work Professor Mike MacKenzie was one of the first to weigh in on the police behavior in Ferguson, Missouri, with a letter to the editor of the New York Times that got published in print last weekend and is the second on this Opinion page, headlined “A Nation Shocked by Ferguson, Mo”.

  5. Alumna Terrie Williams Calls Robin Williams’ Death a “Wake-up Call”

    In this article for CNN Opinion, author, publicist & mental health advocate Terrie Williams (MS’77) says she can relate to Williams’s struggles through the lens of her own experience:

    For me, depression has been part of my journey for a very long time. … I learned to dance the dance, to smile for my friends, for my parents, for the audience, for the camera. I smiled, all while inside a hurricane was sweeping me into an ocean of darkness.”
    At the same time, she acknowledges that every human being “is dealing with their own stuff behind their own mask.”

  6. Don’t Be Afraid to Engage Someone Who Is Suicidal, Says Prof Alonzo

    Professor Dana Alonzo is quoted in ABC News coverage of Robin Williams’ death. “I think one of the most common myths about suicide is…that the worst thing you can do is ask someone about suicide because it will give them the idea,” Alonzo says adding: “It’s one of the most helpful things you can do.” COMING SOON: A Q&A with Prof Alonzo, to be posted in our newsfeed.

  7. CSSW Doctoral Student Working on Health and Aging Receives Pre-Diss Award

    Laura Kimberly is one of ten social work doctoral students to receive a pre-dissertaton award from the Association for Gerontology Education in Social Work (AGESW), along with backing from the Gerontological Society of America (GSA). With the award stipend, she will be attending a special mentoring program in Washington, D.C., during this year’s GSA conference, to be held in early November. We understand she is interested in aging and health; we look forward to finding out what she ends up writing about for her dissertation!

  8. Alumna Publishes First Book, on How to Manage Emotions

    Dr. Erin Olivo, who graduated from the School of Social Work, with a joint degree in public health, in 1995, has her first book coming out on November 1st: Wise Mind Living: Master Your Emotions, Transform Your Life. Dr. Olivo went on to get a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and then collaborated with Mehmet Oz for several years when directing the Columbia Integrative Medicine Program. She is currently an assistant clinical professor of medical psychology at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. Apart from anything else, she’s had am impressive span of disciplines and schools at Columbia! Her CUMC colleague, Dr. Richard Sloane, says she is “the smartest, most thoughtful practitioner of integrative medicine I know” — quite a ringing endorsement!


  9. In response to a July 28th editorial that appeared in the NYT international edition, “Japan’s Need for Women Workers,” Dean Takamura drafted a hard-hitting letter saying that in many ways (paid maternity leave, long-term health care), Japanese women have it better than their American counterparts. It’s published today online and will also appear in all international print weekend editions.

    In fact, what she says dovetails nicely with a study of Professor Waldfogel’s that got referenced a few days before in the Times’s policy analysis blog, TheUpshot: “Paid Leave Encourages Female Employees to Stay.” (There’s even a link to Jane’s NBER working paper.)

    Kudos to both of them for standing up for American women’s rights.

  10. Professor Waldfogel Cited for Her Work on Paid Parental Leave

    California is the first state to offer paid parental leave. Professor Jane Waldfogel has studied the impact of that decision. Her work is cited in TheUpshot, a policy analysis site run by the New York Times: “Paid Leave Encourages Female Employees to Stay,” by Claire Cain Miller (28 July 2014).