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Betty J. Ruth

The Significant Lifetime Achievement in Social Work Education Award is presented to Betty J. Ruth.

Ruth is clinical professor and director of the MSW/MPH program at Boston University (BU) School of Social Work, where she taught ethics, racial justice, and macro practice and has served as the director of the MSW/MPH program for more than 30 years. Trained as a public health social worker, Ruth has been a passionate lifelong advocate for the integration of public health approaches in social work. Over three decades, she stewarded the tiny BU program (from which she had graduated in 1984/1985), into the largest program of its kind in the United States. Today, due to its carefully crafted curriculum and integrated focus on public health social work (PHSW), it is widely regarded as a standard-bearer for MSW/MPH education.

Throughout her career, Ruth has provided broad leadership to advance the integration of public health skills into social work. She has written extensively on the history of PHSW, MSW/MPH education, and the profession’s role in prevention. She has consulted with other MSW/MPH programs, held leadership roles in the American Public Health Association’s PHSW Section, and co-established the Group for PHSW Initiatives to support efforts to elevate the ongoing importance of integrating PHSW. As principal investigator for Advancing Leadership in Public Health Social Work Education, a Health Resources Services Administration project based at BU, Ruth led her team in producing many free resources for those interested in integrating public health concepts into their work.

Ruth has often noted that the entire profession stands on the shoulders of PHSW ancestors and that her goal has been to help “package and transmit the heirloom seeds of public health social work” for broad use when its necessity was more clearly appreciated. She has recently revised her view that PHSW’s time is later. She notes that COVID-19 makes the urgent need for PHSW explicit. She looks forward to joining with social workers in the field as we rebuild from COVID-19.

Award: Significant Lifetime Achievement in Social Work Education Award