Dal prof celebrated for outstanding service to social work

- November 29, 2012

Michael Ungar, at the reception in his honour at the offices of the Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers. (Danny Abriel photos)
Michael Ungar, at the reception in his honour at the offices of the Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers. (Danny Abriel photos)

Michael Ungar says he’s always seen himself as a social worker in academia rather than an academic who does social work.

“I started as a clinician, and I never really wanted to leave the field,” said the School of Social Work professor, who is also co-director of the Resilience Research Centre and an Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Chair. “Becoming part of the university was a way of solving a problem in terms of job description: it was a way to pull the pieces together, so I could write, do research and still maintain a small practice.”

Those pieces continue to spiral in all sorts of compelling directions: co-chairing the Nova Scotia Mental Health Strategy Advisory Committee; writing a blog (Nurturing Reslience) for Psychology Today; authoring more than 100 scholarly papers and book chapters along with 11 books; leading a National Centre of Excellence on Children and Youth in Challenging Contexts . . . the list goes on and on.

That diverse portfolio — research, education, advocacy, social policy — sounds lot like the qualifications for the Outstanding Service Award, presented by the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW). Little wonder, then, that Dr. Ungar was presented the award at a ceremony in Halifax this week.

It’s among the CASW’s highest honours, and it's only presented once every two years.

A message of hope and resiliency

“Through his research and teaching, [Dr. Ungar] continues to provide insight as to how children, families and children achieve and sustain health and well-being while going through challenges and all kinds of diversity,” said Morel Caissie, president of CASW who presented Dr. Ungar with the award.

“His message is always one of hope and resiliency, and in a helping profession such as social work, what could be more important than that?”

Dr. Ungar thanked his mentors and the teams that support his work, including his staff at the clinic that he runs in conjunction with Phoenix Youth Programs. He also celebrated the efforts of social workers across Nova Scotia and Canada.

“I don’t think as social workers we realize that we’re on the cutting edge,” he said. “I meet with a lot of psychologists and psychiatrists and they’re all now moving into the social determinants of health . . . and we’ve been doing that for years and years."

"Everywhere I go, we have a right to talk about what Nova Scotia does and, indeed, what Canada does," he added. "There are exemplary initiatives by social workers here that are cutting edge.”

Michael Ungar, left, being presented with his award by Morel Caissie, president of CASW.


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