NASW Pioneers Biography Index

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation is pleased to present the NASW Social Work Pioneers®. NASW Pioneers are social workers who have explored new territories and built outposts for human services on many frontiers. Some are well known, while others are less famous outside their immediate colleagues, and the region where they live and work. But each one has made an important contribution to the social work profession, and to social policies through service, teaching, writing, research, program development, administration, or legislation.

The NASW Pioneers have paved the way for thousands of other social workers to contribute to the betterment of the human condition; and they are are role models for future generations of social workers. The NASW Foundation has made every effort to provide accurate Pioneer biographies.  Please contact us at to provide missing information, or to correct inaccurate information. It is very important to us to correctly tell these important stories and preserve our history.  

Please note, an asterisk attached to a name reflects Pioneers who have passed away. All NASW Social Work Pioneers® Bios are Copyright © 2021 National Association of Social Workers Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

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Juan Ramos Photo
Juan Ramos

Juan Ramos, PhD, has been a leader in mental health research since 1986. His vitae shows the number and initiatives in research. What it does not show is that throughout his outstanding career he has been a practicing social worker, as well as a scholar. In that role, he consciously worked with the leadership of NASW and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) to advance the priorities of the profession.

An example of his understated, but persistent and effectual work is what is referred to as the Social Work Research Initiative. It was Juan's dedication and skill that moved the effort, initiated by NASW President, Suzanne Dworak-Peck, to get the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to allocate fiscal support for Social Work Research Centers at five universities. That initiative also resulted in seed money for the creation of a central organization to continue to work to advance social work research nationally. The point is that he willingly risked himself in his role relationship with the then Director of NIMH to make sure that this landmark project was successfully achieved. At no time did he seek or receive personal recognition for his efforts. In fact, the profession owes him a debt of gratitude.

One other comment must be made. Because of the way he worked, the cause of social work and minority professionals in NIMH was advanced without contention. As a result of some of his efforts, minority social work professionals were added to research panels and project grants were broadened to include Social Work Schools. Finally, somehow he managed to work successfully within a bureaucracy that was not particularly receptive to PhD level social work professionals or to Latinos. He was a pioneer in relating research 1:0 practice, in getting social work research accepted in NIMH, and in getting NIMH to invest in building the research capacity of the profession.

Newly Inducted NASW Social Work Pioneer Hortense McClinton 2015

Nominate A New NASW Pioneer

Please note, Pioneer nominations made between today’s date through March 31, 2023, will not be reviewed until spring 2023.

Completed NASW Pioneer nominations can be submitted throughout the year and are reviewed at the June Pioneer Steering Committee Meeting. To be considered at the June meeting, submit your nomination package by March 31. To learn more, visit our Pioneer nomination guidelines.

New Pioneers 

Congratulations newly elected Pioneers!  Pioneers will be inducted at the 2023  Annual Program and Luncheon. Full biographies and event details coming soon.