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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Darrell Wheeler Photo
Darrell Wheeler (1959- )

Pioneering Contributions

Darrell Wheeler demonstrates excellence as both an educator and medical researcher. Wheeler’s pioneering research focuses on the identification and exploration of individual and communal resiliency in HIV prevention and intervention, with particular emphasis on African American gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. His work has extended over a broad area of a diverse male population, and he is the author or coauthor of innumerable articles, book chapters, monographs on AIDS, and on various male patterns of behavior. His work has been funded by such esteemed bodies as the American International Health Alliance and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for which he received a four-year grant of more than $1.75 million. 

His direct service accomplishments have encompassed both the medical and psychiatric service arenas. His work has shown understanding of social work practice methods and community, engaged research and scholarship to advance the use of data and evidence in developing and implementing innovative programs and policy initiatives, and promoted local scholarly products with prior students and community agencies.

Career Highlights

Wheeler has been Dean of Loyola’s University School of Social Work since 2011. Prior to that, he served at Hunter College’s School of Social Work as Associate Dean for Research and Community Partnerships from 2007 until 2011, Associate Professor from 2005 until 2011, and Assistant Professor from 2001-2005. Wheeler has taught at the University of California, San Francisco (1997-1999), and the University of North Carolina’s School of Social Work at Greensboro (1992-1995). 

He was a research scientist at New York’s State Department of Health’s AIDS Institute from 1998-2000, a psychotherapist in private practice from 1993-1995, and a senior research associate at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinics from 1991-1992. In the 1980s, Wheeler was a Project Director for Southeast Vicariate Cluster, Inc. (1989-1991), a Case Manager from 1987-1988, and a mental health technician at Ridgeway Hospital. He has served on a number of professional organizations, including the Harlem Dowling-WestSide Center for Children and Family Services (1997-2007), and the NASW National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Task Force from 1999-2000. Wheeler is a Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine.

Biographic Data

Darrell Wheeler received his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in 1992, his MPH at the University of Pittsburgh in 1990, and his MSW from Howard University in 1988. He received his BA in Sociology from Cornell College in 1981. Wheeler served as an elected delegate to the 2008 NASW, New York City Chapter Delegate Assembly and served as a member of the Advisory Council of the African American Family Well-Being Project in 2003. He was a mental health technician with the U.S. Air Force from 1986-1987.

Significant Achievements and Awards

Darrell Wheeler was the recipient of an American International Health Alliance partnership award to develop the capacity of social service programs in Nigeria for orphaned and other vulnerable youth. He was a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Primary Health Care Policy Fellow in 2003; a Henry and Lucy Moses Fellow at Hunter College in 2001-1002; received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Service Award at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro in 1995; and, was named to the Outstanding Young Men of America in 1987 and 1988. He was elected President of NASW in 2013.

Significant Publications

Wheeler has authored, or coauthored, 50 articles, book chapters, newsletters, monographs, and books reviews.  Some of his most recent work includes:

  • Wheeler, D.P. (2011). National Health Line: Advancing HIV/AIDS Domestic Agenda: Social worker and Community health workers unite. Health and Social Work, 36(2), 157-158.
  • Carlos, J. A., Bingham, T. A., Stueve, A., Lauby, J., Ayala, G., Millett, G. A., & Wheeler, D.P. (2010). The role of peer support on condom use among Black and Latino MSM in three urban areas. AIDS Education & Prevention, 22(5), 430-444.
  • Vermund, S. H., Hodder, S. L., Justman, J. E., Koblin, B. A., Mastro, T. D., Mayer, K. H., Wheeler, D.P., et al. (2010). Addressing Research Priorities for Prevention of HIV Infection in the United States. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 50(S3), S149-S155.
  • Wheeler, D. P., & Giunta, N. (2009). National health line: Promoting productive aging Wheeler, D. P. (2009). National health line: Mounting social work response to the worsening HIV epidemic in Black communities. Health & Social Work, 34(2), 156-159.
  • Wheeler, D. P., & Parchment, T. M. (2009). Building capacity for evidence we can believe in: The argument for social change as an evidence-based practice agenda. Health & Social Work, 34(1), 71-73.
  • Bond, L., Wheeler, D. P., Millett, G. A., LaPollo, A. B., Carson, L. F., & Liau, A. (2009). Black men who have sex with men and the association of down-low identity with HIV risk behavior. American Journal of Public Health, 99(S1), S92-S95.
  • Joslin-Roher, E., & Wheeler, D. P. (2009). Partners in transition: The transition experience of lesbian, bisexual and queer identified partners of transgender men. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Services, 21(1), 30-48.


Loyola University

Newly Inducted NASW Social Work Pioneer Hortense McClinton 2015

Nominate A New NASW Pioneer

Completed NASW Pioneer nominations can be submitted throughout the year and are reviewed at the June 2021 Pioneer Steering Committee Meeting. To be considered at the June meeting, submit your nomination package by March 31, 2021. To learn more, visit our Pioneer nomination guidelines.

New Pioneers 

In 2020, 16 new Pioneers have been inducted.