NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Myrna Lewis (1938 - 2005)
Myrna Lewis spent her professional life as an educator, researcher and writer in the field of gerontology and on issues affecting women of all ages. Her work with Gerontologist Robert Butler was published in many refereed journals and books and she was a highly-sought speaker and media interview.
Lewis helped spearhead the medical professionals’ volunteer response to the 9/11 tragedy in New York City, coordinating social workers and other providers for emergency services. She became a member of the New York City Medical Reserve Corps in 2004, which enlisted a volunteer group of medical professionals to assist New York in the event of a large-scale emergency.
Her work on aging led to speaking invitations at symposia in many countries, including the People’s Republic of China, the former Soviet Union, Romania, Austria, Argentina and Israel.
From 1982 until her death, Lewis was an assistant clinical professor at the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York as well as a private practitioner. She was also a psychology columnist for New Choices Magazine from 1992 to 1998. Lewis was a community health specialist at the Department of Human Resources in Washington, DC in the 1960’s before becoming a social worker at Manhattan Veterans Administration Hospital in New York City.
Lewis testified before Congress on issues of aging and women and was a member of the United National NGO Committee on Aging and on its Health Subcommittee on Aging. In 1999 she was on the steering committee and a conference speaker to the Second China-U.S. Conference on Women’s Issues, held in Beijing. She was invited to present at the White House Mini-Conference on Aging and was a member of New York State Division for Women. Lewis made the keynote address of the Annual Seminar of the Association of Former International Civil Servants at the U.N. in 1997.
Lewis earned her Ph.D. from Columbia University School of Social Work in 2000. She received her MS from the same university in 1965 and her BA from the University of Minnesota in 1960.
She also undertook supplementary academic work at the University of Oslo in Norway, the Albert Schweitzer College in Switzerland, the University of California at Berkeley and George Washington University in Washington, DC.
Significant Achievements and Awards
Lewis was a Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine and selected for a profile in Profiles in Gerontology: A Biographical Dictionary. She was a member of the working group on Governance Dilemmas in Bioterrorism Response at the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Lewis was a member of the New York Women’s Foundation, the Gerontological Society of America, the Women’s National Book Association, and the International Women Writers’ Guild, among other organizations.
The Myrna I. Lewis Minority Students Scholarship at Columbia School of Social Work was established in her honor and memory.
Myrna Lewis wrote dozens of articles, books and book chapters, particularly with Robert Butler. Among them are:
Butler, R.N. & Lewis, M.I. (2003). Sex, sexuality and intimacy. In The Textbook of Geriatric Medicine & Gerontology (6th edition, J. Brocklehurst, Editor). London, UK: Churchill Livingstone.
Butler, R.N. & Lewis, M.I. (2002; first edition 1976). The New Love and Sex After 60. New York, NY: Ballantine.
Lewis, M.I. (2002). The pervasiveness of poverty among older women worldwide and its impact on their mental health. Women and Mental Health, February 2002, 21-25.
Lewis, M.I. (2002). Thoughts on older people involved in the World Trade Center crises. Aging, January 2002, NASW Newsletter.
Butler, R.N. & Lewis, M.I. (1995). Late-life depressions: When and how to intervene. Geriatrics, 50(8), 44-55.
Butler, R.N. & Lewis, M.I. (1986). Love and Sex After Forty: A Guide for men and Women for the Mid and Later Years. New York, NY: Harper and Row.