NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Dr. Martha Spinks
Pioneering Contributions: Dr. Martha Spinks began her social work career as an officer in the US Army. She launched the first child development center on a base where she was stationed and developed Family Friends, recruiting experienced military mothers to visit new mothers in the hospital and provide support in place of family members back home. Spinks became an instructor in the Behavioral Science Division of the Army Medical Department’s Academy of Health Sciences to provide military training to health care professionals. She established the Department of Defense Family Advocacy Staff Training program to train interdisciplinary military and civilian personnel to prevent and ameliorate the stress experienced by military families. Spinks was assigned to the Republic of Panama to direct the Army’s Family Support Division, which served 30,000 military and family members in the Isthmus of Panama. Spinks helped to build community among isolated military families, working with commanders and other Army programs to create support systems for military families. She was deputy director of the Army Medical Department Center for Healthcare Education and Studies, where she was responsible for numerous health studies, including major research comparing differences in breast cancer survival among white, African American and Hispanic women, based on their access to preventive healthcare and treatment. Following her service in the military, Spinks became the Executive Director of St. Barnabas Senior Services of Los Angeles (SBSS). The center provided an array of social services, including case management, health care, financial management, socialization and nutrition to low income, multi-ethnic seniors living in the inner-city. SBSS was featured in NASW’s public education campaign in 2006 as an exemplar of social work with multi-ethnic seniors. Spinks conducted a capital campaign to build an adult day health care center at SBSS for people with Alzheimer’s and their family caregivers, which has been cited in trade and journal publications for both its design concept and its programming. She won a grant to build an innovative cyber café for seniors, which the American Society on Aging honored with the Mind Alert award as a model for promoting Lifelong Learning. As director of Bexar Area Agency on Aging in San Antonio, Texas, she served the 300,000 people aged 60 and older residing in the county and was instrumental in developing models for Aging and Disability Resource Centers, Family Caregiver Support, Mobility Services and Veteran Services.
Career Highlight: Spinks has been a social worker in both the military and civilian spheres, leaving legacies of community-based programs. She began her social work career in 1976 as an Army social work officer, which she concluded after 24 years in 2000. She was Executive Director of St. Barnabas Senior Services in Los Angeles from 2000-2008. Spinks was the Director of the Bexar Area Agency on Aging in San Antonio, Texas, from 2009 to 2015. She has served as an adjunct professor at University of Texas-San Antonio and University of Southern California. Since 2015, Spinks has been a consultant to nonprofit organizations in her community.
Biographic Data: Spinks received her BA in English from Abilene Christian University in 1970, her MA in Psychology from the University of Northern Colorado in 1974, her MSW from Our Lady of the Lake in 1976, and her PhD in Social Welfare Policy from the University of Pennsylvania in 1999. Spinks was born in Kermit, Texas, on January 10, 1948. As a dual- career military couple, she and her husband had a son and daughter who grew up with the military.
Significant Achievements & Awards Received: 2015 - Inductee, San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame; 2014 - Achievement Award: The Age Well/Live Well Initiative, Play in the Streets National Association of Area Agencies on Aging; 2008 - MindAlert Award recognizing the St. Barnabas Senior Services Borchardt Cyber Café as a model for promoting Lifelong Learning - MetLife Foundation and American Society on Aging; 2005 - Recognition for Innovative Approaches to Teaching Technology to Seniors, Los Angeles City Council; 2004 - The Annual Rose Award: Good Ideas—We’d Like to See More, for Innovative SBSS Adult Day Health Care Center; 1998 - 25 Best Scientific Journal Articles on Cancer for 1998 - American Cancer Society; Military Awards: Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal with five oak leaf clusters; Army Commendation Medal
Significant Publications: Cyber Café Bridges Cultures, Technology. Martha K. Spinks PhD, Long Term Living Magazine, 19 June 2008.
Opening an Alzheimer’s Day Care Center. Martha K. Spinks PhD, Nursing Homes Magazine, 1 April 2005.
Effects of Screening Mammography on the Comparative Survival Rates of African American, White, and Hispanic Beneficiaries of a Comprehensive Health Care System Barbara E. Wojcik PhD, Martha K. Spinks PhD, and Catherine R. Stein MA. The Breast Journal, Volume 9, Issue 3, pages 175–183, May 2003.
Breast Carcinoma Survival Analysis for African American and White Women in an Equal-Access Health Care System Barbara E. Wojcik, Ph.D. Martha K. Spinks, M.A., M.S.W., Scott A. Optenberg, Dr. P.H. Cancer Volume 82, Issue 7, pages 1310–1318, 1 April 1998