NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Mary C. Gillis 1916-2004
Gillis was Chief Social Worker in the Division of Hospital Medical Services, U.S. Public Health Service from 1954 to 1973. In this position, she was responsible for the development of social work in Public Health Service hospitals and clinics throughout the country including Carville, Louisiana and hospitals for the treatment of drug addiction in Forth Worth, Texas and Lexington, Kentucky. She emphasized the recruitment of professionally qualified and experienced social workers and the development of opportunities for advanced professional training at the doctoral level. She also advocated the involvement of social work in overall hospital and public health service program planning.
Gillis was born in Boston, Massachusetts. She received a bachelor's degree from Radcliffe College in 1937 and her master's of Social Service degree from Simmons College in 1939. From 1939 to 1943 she was Staff Social Worker at Peter Brent Brigham Hospital in Boston and at Grace New Haven Hospital in New Haven, Connecticut. During World War II from 1943 to 1945 she was Hospital Field Supervisor for the American Red Cross in the Mediterranean Theater. From 1945 to 1950 she was Supervisor of Students and Workers at Massachusetts General Hospital.
In 1950 she was one of the first social workers to be commissioned in the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Her first assignments were on the research team to study the feasibility of home care of chronically ill patients in less than ideal conditions. This research was done in the District of Columbia at the public hospital now known as the DC General Hospital. From 1952 to 1954 she was a social worker on a team of physicians, public health nurses, and statisticians on a survey of ten home health care programs and was the author with a team member of a monograph entitled A Study of Selected Home Care Programs.
During her time with the Public Health Service in the 1960's, she had the special assignment to develop a conference sponsored by the Public Health Service Division of Hospitals on the rehabilitation of the narcotic addict. This was a landmark conference which brought together mental health, rehabilitation and medical authorities to discuss issues of rehabilitation and community placement. She also served on the advisory committee which developed the initial regulations for the Medicare program and chaired the Subcommittee on Home Health Services. In addition she served on many inter-agency and inter-departmental health related work groups. She was active in the American Association of Medical Social Workers and in the National Association of Social Workers. When she retired from the Public Health Service in 1973, she continued her involvement in health related community activities. She lived in Washington, DC.