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BLOG: During Social Work Month, Take Time to Honor These Essential Workers

Photo of Jay Miller

Jay Miller, dean of the College of Social Work at the University of Kentucky, reflected on recognizing Social Work Month during the COVID-19 pandemic. His remarks are below:

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 9, 2021) — Essential is an adjective meaning absolutely necessary; extremely important.

The theme for Social Work Month 2021 is, “Social Workers Are Essential.”

For well over a century, that word — essential — has characterized the work of social workers the world over. Be it protecting and serving the most vulnerable among us, educating for social change, researching for social innovation or organizing for social justice, social workers are motivated by an essential calling and united by an essential purpose: to ensure the well-being of all people.

I, like so many, have experienced the essentiality of social work. As a youth in foster care, I depended on social work practitioners to help navigate a tumultuous system. To be certain, without those social workers, I would not be in a position to write to you today.  

On behalf of the College of Social Work at the University of Kentucky, I want to acknowledge the indispensable role of social work and express sincere gratitude for those performing the work. No matter your practice context, the work that you do is imperative to the well-being of individuals, groups, families and communities. Without question, the professional service you provide is essential to a safe, well-functioning society.

In closing, I issue a clarion call to everyone: take stock of the impact that social workers have on our lives. Take time to honor and celebrate social workers — not just this month, but every month. Though months change, social work's essential commitment to strengthen communities and enhance human well-being most certainly will not.

Be well, be diligent with your self-care and always remember — social work was built for this.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.