FACULTY NEWS, January-July 2013

Faculty News

The following is a roundup of news items about the School of Social Work's full-time faculty and research scientists from the start of calendar 2013:

Associate Professor Dana Alonzo has been awarded funding from the Mental Health Association in New York State (MHANYS) in collaboration with the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH), to incorporate her intervention for people at risk of suicide into a pilot project that is part of the FEGS Suicide Prevention Initiative, which was set up in August 2012. Using her pioneering intervention treatment—known as the Strengthening the Treatment Engagement of People at Risk for Suicide (STEPS) Intervention—she will be collecting preliminary data to inform "Facilitating Engagement and Retention of Suicidal Individuals in Outpatient Mental Health Treatment: An Innovative Approach" and to set up a Suicide Prevention Research Program at CUSSW.

Assistant Professor Michelle Ballan has co-edited, with Holly Matto and Jessica Strolin-Goltzman, a new book Neuroscience for Social Work: Current Research and Practice (Springer, 2013), a guide to the most current developments in neuroscience and their practical applications for social work in education, health, mental health, and criminal justice settings, written by social workers for social workers.

Assistant Professor Leo Cabassa is one of 14 awardees in the first competition for the newly established Provost’s Grant Program for Junior Faculty Who Contribute to the Diversity Goals of the University. Awards, of up to $25,000 each, support new or ongoing research and scholarship as well as innovative projects. Dr. Cabassa aims to pilot test the feasibility and acceptability of a 12- week peer-led, established healthy life style intervention, the Group Lifestyle Balance program, within a supportive housing agency that serves African American and Latino adults who have serious mental illness (SMI) and who are at risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Persons with SMI are at double the risk for obesity and diabetes in comparison to the general population. Additional risks associated with being of minority origin further exacerbate the vulnerability of persons who are non-white Latinos, including modifiable risk factors such as obesity and lack of exercise. Following this pilot study, Dr. Cabassa intends to prepare a larger effectiveness study. Earlier in the Spring semester, on March 21, Dr. Cabassa delivered a Grand Rounds presentation at the University of Maryland, Department of Psychiatry. for their 20th Annual Cultural Diversity Day,  entitled "Reducing Stigma towards Mental Illness in the Latino Community."

Nabila El-Bassel, Willma and Albert Musher Professor of Social Work, was one of the featured speakers at the InWomen's conference entitled "Health Disparities, Women, and Substance Abuse: Global Issues," held in San Diego on June 14 in conjunction with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) International Forum and the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) Annual Scientific Meeting.

Prakash Gorroochurn, who has served as statistical consultant for the School of Social Work for the past six years, has been promoted to Associate Professor of Clinical Biostatistics in the Department of Biostatistics at the Mailman School of Public Health. Earlier in the Spring semester, on February 27, Dr. Gorroochurn received the 2012 PROSE (American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence ) Award for Mathematics for his recent book, Classic Problems of Probability (Wiley, 2012). “The awardees and their books are stellar,” said Dean Jeanette C. Takamura. “Altogether the texts would make a summer reading list of the highest caliber.”

Michael MacKenzie, a social work scholar with a multidisciplinary background in developmental psychology and the life sciences, has been promoted to associate professor. His comparative research seeks to have rigorous science point the way to interventions that will enable a positive life course for specific populations of children at risk: children who are maltreated, children who are under the supervision of the child welfare system, and children who have normative familial care experiences. Read more.

Ronald B. Mincy, Maurice V. Russell Professor of Social Policy and Social Work Practice, has been awarded the 2013 Frank R. Breul Memorial Prize, alongside Daniel P. Miller, an assistant professor at the Boston University School of Social Work and an alumni of CUSSW (PhD'09). The prize, which was established by the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago in honor of Professor Breul for his career as educator, administrator, and editor of the Social Work Review, is awarded annually to the author(s) of what is judged to be the best article published in that prestigious journal during the preceding year. Drs. Mincy and Miller are being honored for their article “Falling Further Behind? Child Support Arrears and Fathers’ Labor Force Participation,” in the December 2012 issue. Previous Breul recipients from CUSSW include Neeraj Kaushal, Qin Gao (PhD'05), and Jane Waldfogel in 2008, and Irwin Garfinkel and former associate research scientist Lenna Nepomnyaschy in 2011.

Ada C. Mui, Professor of Social Work, presented a report of her study findings, "Developing an Older Adult Volunteer Program in a New York Chinese Community: An Evidence-based Approach," at the 20th International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics (IAGG) World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics, held in Seoul, South Korea, on July 25th.

Associate Professor Rogério Meireles Pinto was one of two Columbia University professors to capture this year's Graduate Student Mentoring Award for faculty teaching in a doctoral program offered by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) in cooperation with the professional schools. A Brazilian-born psychiatric social worker, Professor Pinto does research on evidence-based models of effective community-researcher partnerships. He received this teaching honor because of the nomination letters sent by CUSSW doctoral students. Read more.

Associate Professor Craig Schwalbe has been awarded tenure. Dr. Schwalbe’s scholarship has been dedicated to the advancement of practice and program development related to court-involved youth. Read more.

Research scientist and alumna Traci Schwinn was invited to deliver a DatStat Case Study Webinar on July 9th entitled "Working to reduce adolescent substance use," outlining the data collection and research management techniques involved in her "RealTeen" study, a Web-based intervention focused on helping adolescent girls reduce their monthly levels of drug and alcohol use.

M. Katherine Shear, Marion E. Kenworthy Professor of Psychiatry in Social Work, was selected as recipient of the 2013 Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) Research Recognition Award, which is given to an individual who has conducted peer-reviewed research that adds/contributes significantly to the body of knowledge in studies concerning death and loss. The award was presented before the plenary session of the 2013 ADEC conference, on April 27. NOTE: This coming fall, Dr. Shear has been invited to be a speaker at the XXVII World Congress of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), to be held in Oslo, Norway. Her topic is “Complicated grief treatment for suicide survivors."

Associate Professor Fred Ssewamala is to attend the Science in Social Work Doctoral Education Roundtable, being jointly sponsored by Boston College and University of Southern California Schools of Social Work, July 14-17, at IslandWood on Bainbridge Island, Washington (near Seattle), the purpose of which is to debate the issues of a science of social work as they apply to doctoral education. Topics include Big Data, transdisciplinary research and the globalization of social work doctoral education. Since the start of the year, Dr. Ssewamala has done numerous presentations, including at the International Association for Adolescent Health 10th World Congress held in Istanbul, Turkey, June 11-13 ("Education, Life Transitions, and HIV Risk among Youth in Sub-Saharan Africa," with John Santelli); at the South African National Conference on Orphans, Vulnerable Children and Youth, held in Durban, South Africa, May 27-30 ("The Impact of a Microfinance-Based Intervention on Depression Levels of AIDS-Orphaned Children in Uganda"); and at the UNAIDS & International Labor Organization Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, February 27-28 ("Effects of Social Protection on Health Outcomes" and "Livelihoods Responses and Care and Support for OVC: Where is the Evidence and Where are the Gaps?").

On May 15, Dean Jeanette C. Takamura was a panelist for an event convened by the Columbia Club, called “Global Scholarship in a Modern World,” consisting of a conversation about the Global Centers Columbia University has established as a direct response to the new, 21st century paradigm of increasing global interconnectedness—driving change in research, scholarship, learning, and outreach. Earlier in the Spring semester, Dean Takamura was a panelist for the pre-release screening of the new documentary Powerbroker: Whitney Young's Fight for Civil Rights, held February 7 at the Ford Foundation's headquarters in Manhattan. Young led the National Urban League, which was formed by faculty at the precursor to CUSSW, and his bust sits in the Social Work Library, where his papers are part of the permanent collection. Before an audience of special guests, Dean Takamura—along with Ken Chenault, Vernon Jordan, and Richard Parsons—discussed Young’s legacy as a bridge-builder and his success in engaging corporate America in the fight for civil rights. Read more.

Associate Professor Elwin Wu, an MS alumnus with a doctorate in a cellular and molecular biology from Harvard University, with a concentration in mathematical, non-linear modeling in systems neuroscience, has been awarded tenure. Committed to social justice for high-risk populations too often cast to the margins of society, Dr. Wu has drawn from his knowledge of biological systems and synergistic processes to inform research that bears significant implications for health services design and implementation. Read more.

Allen Zweben, Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Research, chaired, organized and presented a symposium entitled "Integrated Care for Alcohol and Other Problems: Challenges Opportunities and New Directions," at the 36thth Annual Scientific Meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism, held in Orlando, Florida, on June 25. The previous month, he delivered a Psychiatry Ground Rounds presentation at the University of Connecticut Health Center, entitled Optimizing Pharmacotherapy and Behavioral Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Lessons Learned.