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Claire Rose Lustman

Claire Lustman began her career as a social worker when the University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Social Work awarded her an MS in Social Administration, in June 1941. She was a training supervisor in the health field of the Pennsylvania Department of Social Welfare. Two years later, she responded to an urgent appeal for medical and psychiatric social workers for placement overseas in World War II at U.S. Army and Naval Hospitals by the American Red Cross. Her initial assignment was in Brisbane Australia then the rear echelon for General MacArthur’s headquarters.

In Brisbane, she was assigned to assist the adjutant general with meeting the community’s critical needs for health services to the local citizenry occasioned by the influx of thousands of American soldiers temporarily stationed here. She worked closely with another lady, and together they established a program at the local women’s hospital for young Australian women impregnated by U.S. soldiers, and those suffering from diseases emanating from over-crowded conditions. With these programs established, she left for her regular assignment as a medical social worker at the Fourth General U.S. Army Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, and serving wounded army personnel. When this hospital was transferred to New Guinea six month later, she left for New Zealand, where she led a social services program in U.S. Naval Hospital 104 as Assistant Field Director.

In March 1945, the Veterans Administration Social Work Service, in Washington, DC, offered Ms. Lustman a position as the first professional social worker to serve in a field VA hospital. The VA hospitals were being inundated by returning wounded and sick servicemen from all the fighting fronts.

General Hines, the VA director, sponsored Ms. Lustman’s initial position at the VA Hospital in Aspinwall, Pennsylvania, designed to establish a model program of medical social services, as a prototype for similar efforts throughout the systems. Ms. Lustman set up a stellar medical and psychiatric social work program in affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Social Work.

In 1964, Ms. Lustman was called to the Veterans Administration Central Office in Washington, DC, to the position of Director, Social Work Educational Services. The charge was to develop and direct educational affiliations with qualified schools of social work throughout the United States. She also initiated a staff development program on behalf of the medical and psychiatric social workers throughout the VA health care system.

When Claire Lustman retired from the Veterans Administration in September 1975, the VA’s Chief Medical Director cited her for her distinguished career. She received professional recognition for her committee work with NASW. She also authored several articles for professional journals and publications of the Council on Social Work Education and NASW. She taught social administration courses at two graduate Schools of Social Work and served the University of Pittsburgh and Howard University as an adjunct associate professor of social work for ten years.

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