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November 08, 2017

Though Los Angeles is making progress on homelessness, there’s still a long way to go. Learn what USC is doing to raise awareness and strengthen community partnerships.

November 07, 2017

With nearly a decade of experience as a family nurse practitioner, Clinical Assistant Professor Michelle Zappas offers students an inside look into what it’s like to practice in the real world.

Michelle Peters Zappas is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Nursing at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, where she instructs students in the clinical management of adult patients. She also serves as a per diem nurse practitioner at the Saban Community Clinic in Los Angeles.

TEST - Implications of Trump Administration Policies: Climate Change, Environment and Global Health

Social Work Center

University Park Campus
655 West 34th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90089

SWC 106
USC Law & Global Health Collaboration

This session will focus on several of the Trump Administration's aggressive regulatory rollbacks and discuss their impact on climate change efforts, public health and environmental justice, and discuss potential legal challenges and intervention to support people in Los Angeles and across the globe. 

Speaker: J. Mijin CHa, J.D., LL.M, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Urban and Environmental Policy Department

Occidental College

Fellow, Cornell University's Worker Institute

Respondent: Lawrence A. Palinkas, Ph.D.

Albert G. and Frances Lomas Feldman Professor of Social Policy and Health
Chair, Department of Children, Youth and Families

Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

Students, faculty, and staff are welcome. Lunch will be provided. 

USC, Salvadoran consulate host forum to address immigration status

  • Practice

The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work co-hosted a forum with the Consulate General of El Salvador in Los Angeles on Oct. 27 to discuss the soon-to-expire Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program.

TPS is designated for certain countries and allows foreign nationals to stay in the United States for a specified amount of time if conditions in their home country prevent them from returning safely. More than 190,000 Salvadorans have lived in the United States under TPS for 16 years, since devastating earthquakes in El Salvador forced their migration north. Now, with the program set to expire in March 2018, many of them, along with other Central Americans living in the states under TPS, are in distress about possibly being sent back to their home countries.

“In reality, [their] contributions have not always been visible because there has always been a stereotype in our community with other characteristics that have nothing to do with the Salvadoran community,” said Hugo Martinez, minister of foreign affairs for El Salvador, who came in from El Salvador to speak at the event.

The forum, which brought together community members, political representatives, service providers, and diplomatic organizations, highlighted the positive contributions to the United States by TPS recipients.

“More than 95 percent of TPS recipients have permanent jobs, sometimes two jobs. They speak moderate English, and have a mortgage,” Martinez said. “Over 50 percent of the 190,000 TPS recipients are paying for a home in the United States and contribute to Medicare.”

A video played at the event showed the story of Rosa Joya, a registered nurse in El Salvador who resorted to cleaning houses to help her family stay afloat when she first came to the United States under TPS.

“We benefit from the program, but we also make contributions. We support health, education and business sectors,” Joya said.

Joya has since studied English for foreign nurses and now works at a hospital in a nursing capacity. Her daughter, who grew up in the United States under TPS, is currently completing her nursing degree.

Serving the community

Forum panelists acknowledged the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work’s efforts in serving the Salvadoran community in Los Angeles, including a field placement established two years ago at the Consulate General of El Salvador in Los Angeles, the first of its kind. Here, USC Master of Social Work students provide mental health services to directly address the needs of families who have immigrated to the United States.

The first MSW student to perform this field placement, Miyera Noris, shared her positive learning experiences working with the consulate.

“The Salvadoran community has had access to treatment, which has contributed to a better quality of life for us in the United States,” Noris said. “This new service model for the immigration community is similar to models being adapted in other consulates, including Mexico.”

“The [Salvadoran] consulate was the first to establish mental health services to directly address the needs of this community,” said Cherrie Short, associate dean of the Office of Global and Community Initiatives at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. “It is our goal as a school to continue to demonstrate this community’s great contribution to the country, as well as highlight the consulate’s work.” 

Putting a face on the issue

In addition to Martinez, forum panelists included Paul Little, president of the Pasadena, California, Chamber of Commerce; Gaspar Rivera, project director at the UCLA Labor Center; and Vanessa Lopez, a California State University, Los Angeles, student covered by TPS who has resided in the United States since she was 4 years old.

“It’s important that people understand we’re talking about our neighbors and the owners of the businesses we frequent,” Little said. “It’s important to humanize this community.”

Lopez said she was thankful for the program, but that she also recognized the hardship her mother experienced to successfully integrate her five children into the country.

“She had to pay $500 every 18 months per family member in order to keep us here under TPS,” she said. “I chose to pursue my college degree to repay her and help my family.”

Lopez went onto explain that learning in English while living in a Spanish-speaking household wasn’t always easy. “I taught myself to read and to study. Applying to college isn’t easy for first-generation [students] – no one knew the process [at home], especially as a TPS recipient,” said Lopez, who will graduate with honors this year.

Looking to the future

The forum’s goal was to not only highlight TPS community contributions but also to begin to discuss alternatives to the expiring program.

Although TPS is not in the hands of Congress, Martinez said, it is important to see what Congress has to say about the program. With the change in federal government leadership in November 2016, Martinez’s unit has organized more than 30 major U.S. companies to send letters to the Secretary of Homeland Security to delay the expiration of TPS, as well as recruited the support of government and non-government entities.

“We have the numbers, we have the history, but more importantly, what we have is the justice and value of these people who have benefitted from TPS and DACA, so we need to do our job to convince the officials locally, state and nationwide, of a pathway toward residency long-term in the United States,” Martinez said. “The problem with TPS is the ‘T’ – [it’s] temporary.”

The Office of Global and Community Initiatives at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work plans to continue supporting the school’s efforts to further develop the collaboration with the consulate in providing direct mental health services to the Salvadoran community in Los Angeles.

Short, along with Clinical Associate Professor of Field Education Maria Hu, planned the event.

USC alumna Bernice Harper joins Hall of Distinction

  • Alumni

Adding to her extensive honors, a remarkable graduate of the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work was inducted into the California Social Work Hall of Distinction on Oct. 21. Bernice Catherine Harper, MSW ’48, authored the groundbreaking book Death: The Coping Mechanism of the Health Professional and helped pioneer the hospice movement not only in the United States but also overseas.

The Hall of Distinction is a program within the California Social Welfare Archives (CSWA). As one speaker noted, “History is biographical: if we dig deeply enough, we will learn something about ourselves,” and that sentiment informs the mission of the Hall of Distinction. CSWA president Esther Gillies explained that it was founded in 1979 to ensure the advances and lessons of the profession remain available to future practitioners and researchers.

Bernice Harper, MSW ’48

Among the first women of color to earn a master’s degree in public health at Harvard University, Harper came from extremely humble roots. With 11 siblings, she knew she’d need help to pay for college. She requested an appointment with the president of Virginia State College to ask his advice, and she so impressed him that he housed her in his home while she attended the college. Her Master of Social Work from USC and MPH from Harvard soon followed.

As a home care coordinator and then chief social worker at City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte, California, Harper developed one of the nation’s first oncology social work programs, and in 1970 she was elected president of the American Society of Hospital Social Work Directors. Her book Death: The Coping Mechanism of the Health Professional made an immediate impact in the profession, earned a Better Life Award from the American Health Care Association, and is still being revised and reissued to this day. She has also contributed to other textbooks and scholarly journals.

For the past 30-plus years she has been a Medicare and Medicaid advisor for the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, where a major accomplishment was the adding of hospice benefits into Medicare coverage. She has chaired the National Hospice Organization’s task force on access for minority groups, and in the 1990s she helped launch a hospice foundation for sub-Saharan Africa, especially for AIDS patients. Now known as Global Partners in Care, it has nearly 100 hospices in 15 countries and maintains links with many U.S. hospices. In recognition of her leadership service, the National Association of Social Workers and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization raised funds for a scholarship in Harper’s name to support the education of care workers in Africa. She has represented the United States at overseas meetings, such as the International Council on Social Welfare.

Among her many high honors, she was inducted into the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. She also received the NASW Foundation’s Knee/Wittman outstanding achievement award in health policy, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s distinguished service award, and dozens of others.

NASW past president and International Federation of Social Workers ambassador Suzanne Dworak-Peck introduced Harper as “a social worker who combines clarity of purpose, the highest standards and determination, with the ability to apply a systematic approach to serving the greater good” and as “a can-do person who represents the strength and caring of social workers who help others cope with the long-term challenges of the human life cycle.” Underscoring Harper’s national impact, Dworak-Peck read aloud a personal letter of congratulations sent to Harper one day earlier by former U.S. President George W. Bush.

After offering a prayer for those suffering from floods, hurricanes and other tragedies, Harper asserted that, regardless of ethnicity or geography, “we’re all related—homed or homeless, tall or short, thin or portly, ill or well.” And she said a new global revolution was under way in which social workers especially would be “called upon to help soldier love, caring, and devotion. “It took 3,000 years to bring us where we are today. The next thing that has to happen is worldwide human caring…Social workers are going to be available to assist to help to make a better world, but not only a better world, but a changed world for human betterment.”

Harper was inducted along with five other honorees: Doreen Der-McLeod, elder-care and youth services pioneer in San Francisco’s Chinatown; Rebecca Lopez, immigration scholar, activist and policy shaper; Ken Nakamura, education leader and bridge-builder with indigenous North Coast communities; Barbara Needell, scholar and pioneer of data analysis in child welfare; and Benny Max Parrish, change-maker in ethics and client advocacy.

CSWA makes available materials related to social work and social welfare programs in California, including a collection of over 150 oral history interviews with social welfare leaders. Housed at the USC Special Collections Library, the Archives and its Hall of Distinction are supported by the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.

International conference convenes leading experts on Latino health, aging and Alzheimer’s

  • Research

Over 100 attendees from the United States and Latin America—including elected members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine—came to USC to participate in what is considered the premier social research conference on Latino health and aging.

At the 2017 International Conference on Aging in the Americas (ICAA), which was hosted by the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, scholars discussed how the social and built environment affects the health and mental health of aging Latinos.

“We’re dedicated to developing new knowledge of Latino aging in the United States and Latin America and to establish leadership in the field,” said William Vega, the conference’s organizer, executive director of the USC Roybal Institute and elected member of the National Academy of Medicine.

U.S. Census data indicates that Latinos are the nation’s largest ethnic/racial minority group and the fast-growing segment of the U.S. older adult population.

Alzheimer’s and U.S. Latino subgroup differences

The conference brought together prominent researchers on Latino cognitive health, including Hector González, the principal investigator of the Study of Latinos – Investigation of Neurocognitive Aging (SOL-INCA), which is examining midlife risks for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias among diverse, U.S.-based Latinos.

Wassim Tarraf, an assistant professor at Wayne State University and co-investigator on SOL-INCA, discussed findings that underscore the cognitive differences among Latino subgroups.

“Considering Latinos as one homogeneous group would not be a very good idea,” Tarraf said. “We have data to show that there are a lot of variations.”

Rates of cognitive impairment are higher among Dominicans and Puerto Ricans and lower among Mexicans, according to results from SOL-INCA.

“There may be something going on that’s biological or it may be socio-cultural factors,” González said.

Tarraf said reliable epidemiological data is important for research and developing policies that can meet the unique needs of different groups.

One of the aims of the SOL-INCA is to study differences in cognitive functioning among Latinos from various ethnic backgrounds.

Challenges in Latin America

The USC Roybal Institute began to establish closer ties with Cuban researchers last year after the Obama administration began normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba.

Jesús Menéndez Jiménez, a professor of geriatrics at the Medical University of Havana and the director of Cuba’s WHO Collaborating Centre in Public Health and Aging, noted that the growth rate of older adults in Cuba is one of the highest in Latin America and that the Cuban health care system is struggling to meet the needs of this increasing population.

“We will need to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our services,” Jiménez said. “We still have much to improve.”

Mariana López-Ortega, a researcher from the Mexican National Institute of Geriatrics, spoke about the issues facing the rapidly aging population in Mexico.

“Life expectancy at age 60 is 22 years, but 12 of those years will be lived with disability,” López-Ortega said. “Mexico as a whole lacks well-developed and funded health and social care systems that could respond to these increasing and differentiated demands. At the same time, the provision of care for older adults currently relies mostly on the family.”

Emerging scholars

A major goal of the conference is to help young scholars in the early stages of their research careers by connecting them with senior researchers who have conducted groundbreaking work in the field.

At this year’s conference, a record 26 emerging scholars attended and presented their work.

The conference series on aging in the Americas was established in 2001 at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin by principal investigator Jacqueline Angel, professor of public affairs and sociology.

The event is in its 9th installment and was held in September to coincide with National Hispanic Heritage Month. This is the second time the USC Roybal Institute hosted the conference. It previously hosted the 2012 ICAA.

The conference series continues to be funded by the National Institute on Aging.

Sponsors of this year’s conference included the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, AARP California, AARP Texas, Dignity Health – St. Mary Medical Center, L.A. Care Health Plan, Los Angeles Foundation on Aging and The California Endowment.

Roundtable brings together civic and religious leaders to address homelessness

  • Grand Challenges

One day in 2011, Emily Martinuik, then 59, found herself standing on a freeway overpass and contemplating suicide. Her youngest son had died at 19 in a bus accident, she struggled with what was later diagnosed as bipolar depression, had lost her business and her home, and was facing the prospect of living on the street. But instead of jumping, she decided to climb down and check herself into Olive View hospital in Sylmar, beginning the process of turning her life around.

“Because of L.A. Family Housing and the Department of Mental Health, I have a new life,” said Martinuik, who is now an advocate with CSH Speak Up, an organization that uses housing as a platform for providing services to the most vulnerable people. “I live in a safe environment that I can afford, I have a supportive community and I’ve been given the opportunity to advocate for others.”

She relayed her story at the Religions and Homelessness High-Level Roundtable, held on Oct. 18 at the USC Davidson Conference Center as part of the university’s initiative to end homelessness. Faith leaders, civic leaders and academicians gathered there to get a better understanding of the complexities of homelessness in Los Angeles, share the most effective responses to it and foster greater cooperation among religious groups in the process. The event was co-sponsored by four USC organizations: the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies, the Center for Religion and Civic Culture, the Office of Religious Life and the Initiative to Eliminate Homelessness.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said that to compel action, homelessness needs to be viewed as a “moral crisis.” He noted that it is the No. 1 ranked issue in public opinion polls, contributing to the overwhelming passage in March of Measure H, which authorizes a 0.25 percent county sales tax for 10 years to fund much-needed homeless services and prevention.

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, there was a 23 percent increase in homelessness in 2017, with nearly 43,000 unsheltered people and nearly 15,000 in shelters. Yet Benjamin Henwood, assistant professor with the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, who has extensively researched homelessness, said there has been progress in responding to the issue.

He pointed out that in 2016 the county housed more than 14,000 chronically homeless, in part through the more recent approach of providing housing first and then other services such as mental health care and substance abuse programs. “They need the safety and control of an apartment before moving on and tackling other things,” said Henwood, who coauthored the 2016 book, Housing First: Ending Homelessness, Transforming Systems, and Changing Lives.

But he added that social and spiritual needs often are not met, and asked the gathering, “How can all of you play a role? How can we make a difference connecting to one another?” During table discussions, Thomas Wong, MSW ’17, who is a clinical team leader for the Hollywood section of a homeless services organization, echoed Henwood’s remarks, saying “A lot of tenants say they feel isolated.”

Later, a panel of religious leaders spoke about the challenges of engaging their congregations in the issue of homelessness. Rabbi Noah Farkas of Valley Beth Shalom synagogue said he placed biographies and portraits of homeless people in the hallways. Similarly, Rev. Zachary Hoover of L.A. Voice said it is important for people to encounter homeless individuals through hearing their stories and personal interaction.

After revealing her story, Martinuik, who said she was born a Catholic, converted to Judaism, and is now a Buddhist, went on to explain that her faith has given her a “debt of gratitude, which I am now repaying to the homeless community through my advocacy work.”

In concluding the event, Father James Heft, founder and president of the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies, said, “May the three angels who appeared to Abraham as homeless strangers and whom he received so hospitably open our hearts to the homeless, for every homeless person is or ought to be an angel to us.”

The participants ended their time together by signing a “moral imperative” to support practical solutions on housing and to speak out more on behalf of homeless people. The agreement ends with, “We will persevere in this commitment until all our neighbors dwell in dignity.”

The Invisible Patients: Film Screening and Panel


MSW Information Session - University Park Campus

University Park Campus <br> MRF Hamovitch<br>655 West 34th Street <br> Los Angeles, CA 90089

University Park Campus
655 West 34th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90089

MRF Homovitch
USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work Office of Admissions
Website: Cost:

This information session is designed to outline the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work MSW program, including curriculum, program length options and admissions requirements, and meet with an admissions professional and current students.


Parking Options:

  1. USC Royal Street Lot (Parking Structure D)
    Enter the University Park Campus at Gate 4 (At the intersection of Jefferson Blvd and Royal Street)
    Daily Parking: $12
  2. USC Shrine Lot
    631 Jefferson Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90089
    Parking: $2 per hour, 2-hour maximum
    Exit the parking structure using the south exit and cross the street through Gate 4.

Directions to MRF Hamovitch:

The Montgomery Ross Fisher (MRF) building is located on the northeast part of the University Park Campus, adjacent to the USC Royal Street Lot (Parking Structure D). Enter MRF through the entrance on 34th Street.

Campus Map:

TEST - Brave Spaces: Free Speech in the Academy

Franklin Room, 3rd Floor

University Park Campus
655 West 34th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90089

TCC Franklin Room
USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work Department of Social Change & Innovation
Adrienne Lennix-Little
alt text

Join us for a discussion with faculty, administrators and students on how free speech and academic freedom influence the classroom experience and campus climate at USC. Moderated by Ruth White, Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Social Change and Innovation at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, this event includes a meet and greet, lunch, and panel discussion followed by a Q&A session. 


Ginger Clark, assistant vice provost for academic and faculty affairs, director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching, co-chair of the Provost's Diversity and Inclusion Council, professor of clinical education in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program in the Rossier School of Education

Gretchen Dahlinger Means, executive director of equity and diversity, Title IX coordinator

Kylie Cheung, editorial director of the Daily Trojan, sophomore majoring in journalism and political science

Olu Orange, adjunct professor of political science, director of USC Dornsife Trial Advocacy Program

ESVP at using code brave.




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