Chapter Update

Monday, October 28

2013 NASW Illinois Chapter Statewide Conference: Day One

Joel L. Rubin, MSW, ACSW, CAE, 

Resiliency, acceptance, patriotism, and service. These words were embedded in the message of our 2013 NASW Illinois Chapter Statewide Conference Opening Plenary Speaker Melissa Stockwell. Losing her left leg in a roadside bomb on April 13, 2004, Melissa described her journey of learning to walk again, setting a goal to be a US Paralympic athlete, and championship triathlete. Melissa passionately related her assessment of her situation when she was transferred to Walter Reed Hospital at the end of April 2004. Noting the severity of the other injured patients, she considered herself “one of the lucky ones,” in that she was only missing her left leg. It was that moment that Melissa came to the conclusion of two thoughts: 1) Accepting the loss of her left leg, and 2) Living her life for those who didn’t make it back from Iraq. She was also aided by the strong support of her family.

Her subsequent intense physiotherapy led Melissa to consider a career in the field of prosthetics, giving back through her professional work. Melissa does this daily in her work at Scheck and Siress Prosthetics in Chicago where she fits other amputees with artificial limbs. 

Melissa closed her remarks by noting that she chose not to go down the road of despair but rather another harder and more uphill road by accepting what happened to her. Her inspirational remarks received a standing ovation by a full plenary hall. \

The strong future of our profession was embodied by the two panelists that followed Melissa’s opening address. Both Hilary Edgerly, LCSW, Assistant Chief of Social Work Services at VA Illiana Health Care System, and Zach Hunsinger, JD, MSW, Assistant Director of Veteran Programs at Health and Disability Advocates are two young social work professionals dedicated to improving the lives of our veterans and their family members. They presented a wealth of information about expanding VA benefits as well as the intersection of VA health benefits and the Affordable Care Act. 

Following lunch, which was sponsored EAPrefer (website), attendees were treated to intensive workshops on the DSM-V, ethics, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Some of the most knowledgeable presenters in the state joined us for these workshop, including Stan and Susan McCracken, Joe Monahan, and Stephanie Altman. Our new conference feature this year, the Rapid Confab, was extremely successful. Modeled after the TED talks, our Rapid Confabs consisted of four 15-minute presentations with group discussions following each confab—a natural for social workers!

During the afternoon, NASW Illinois Chapter President Candi Gray and I also had the opportunity to meet with presidents of the various social work organizations around the state. The group included Jataun Williams of the National Association of Black Social Workers, Eric Orenstein from the Illinois Society for Clinical Society Work, Kellie Branch-Dircks of the Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care, Tom Tebbe of the Illinois Association of School Social Workers, and Laura Adams of the Northern Illinois Chapter EAP Association. One of the outcomes of our very productive meeting was to work more closely on the various professional and legislative issues facing all of our organizations and to meet on a quarterly basis. 

A successful day culminated with a great evening of networking and recognizing our 2013 Statewide Awardees: Public Citizen of the Year Patricia Polk; Social Worker of the Year Ellen Benjamin; Lifetime Achievement Awardee Dan Rosenfeld; and Emerging Leader Mary Gollings. 

Social media also played an important and positive role at this year’s conference. Twitter, Instagram, and the conference mobile app all provided a great outlet for attendees to share ideas and genuine enthusiasm for being at the “Meeting of the Profession.” We also had a dry erase board in the Networking Lounge for attendees to fill in with responses to the question, What is the KEY to advancing to your career? Responses ranged from education, networking, licensure and certifications, staying visible and finding the niche that gives you exposure and affiliate, determination, flexible hours and CEU hours, staying current on developments in the field, and taking an active role in advocacy and the legislative process. 

There is lot more on tap tomorrow with our exhibit hall opening and many more workshops. You can get started early by attending an early morning yoga practice with Eileen Rosete at 7:30am in Oak. Please join us!

Posted on 10/28/13 at 08:00 PM


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