NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Dr. Patricia Brownell worked at the Human Resources Administration (HRA), which is the social service arm of the New York City Municipal government, for 26 years. She served in a variety of positions at HRA including: senior planner, executive assistant, and director for many programs and projects in the fields of child welfare, domestic violence, home care, the entitlements, and public welfare. While working at HRA, she also pursued an MSW at Fordham University with a concentration in Administration. Not only was Administration a new area, it was especially unique for a woman at that time since most women pursued clinical work. Since she attended and graduated from Fordham, she has continued to advocate for professional social work within the public sector in her numerous service, research, and training projects.
Dr. Brownell joined NASW in 1979, the year after she received her MSW and thus has been a member of NASW for 30 years. She chaired the NASW Committee on Women's Issues and has continually promoted programs about women’s issues. Dr. Brownell has served as a board member as well as secretary and also served as the president of the NYC Chapter of NASW.
After a successful career in public services, Dr. Brownell pursued a doctorate at Fordham with a specialization in gerontology. As a work study doctoral student, she conducted original research in a social problem area that had previously been unexplored and unrecognized, that of elder abuse. Her dissertation on this topic involved collaboration with the NYPD and the criminal justice system to identify the type and extent of elder abuse in New York City.
In her career as a social work educator, she has continued her pioneering work in the area of elder abuse, as well as public sector social work. Her land mark dissertation on elder abuse has been published as a book, Family Crimes against the Elderly: A Study of Elder Abuse and the Criminal Justice System. Dr. Brownell was also instrumental in founding the NGO International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) and has been very active in advancing knowledge about elder abuse and gerontology at the United Nations. Dr. Brownell has never forgotten the importance of professionalizing public sector workers and successfully applied for and serves as the Principal Investigator for the Practicum Partnership Program funded by the John A. Hartford Foundation with the New York Academy of Medicine. This program provides the opportunity for public sector employees to pursue graduate social work degrees.
In addition to her work in raising public awareness of elder abuse, her tremendous service to students in terms of inspiring them to pursue careers in gerontology and her advocacy on behalf of professionalizing public sector workers, Dr. Brownell is also an accomplished author. She has published two books, twelve journal articles and 21 book chapters. In this way, she has sought to disseminate her pioneering research findings and advocacy work in the areas of elder abuse and public sector social work to a even larger audience of social workers and others in the social service field.