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.

Skip Navigation Links
Janet B. W.Williams Photo
Janet B. W.Williams

Dr. Janet B. W. Williams is an outstanding social worker whose accomplishments during a 30 year period are extraordinary in her unique service to the social work profession and the broad field of mental health practice and research. She received a BS Degree in Psychology in 1969 from Jackson College of Tufts University; an MS in Marine Biology from Southeastern Massachusetts University in 1972; an MS in Social Work in 1974 from Columbia University School of Social Work; and her DSW in Social Welfare from Columbia University School of Social Work.

Dr. Williams has demonstrated in her lengthy career the unique value of the social work research perspective in the field of mental health often dominated by other professional groups. Her accomplishments in contributing to the profession of social work through the founding of the Society for Social Work and Research, as well as extensive service in Social Work editorial boards and the Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research indicate, her deep commitment to her social work roots.

Dr. Williams was given the NASW Foundation Knee/Wittman Award in 2005 for "dedication and commitment to mental health services research and to bridging social work research and practice." In a release to the press it was noted that, "Since 1975, she has helped lead the development of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuals (DSM), one of the most widely used and taught diagnostic tools in social work education. Dr. Williams used her expertise in classification from the DSM to conduct field trials of the Person-in­-Environment (PIE) system that focuses specifically on those aspects of the environment and psychosocial functioning that are of most interest to social workers.

Dr. Williams co­-edited a groundbreaking and widely used book, published by the NASW Press, entitled Advances in Mental Health Research: Implications for Practice. In 1994, she founded the Society for Social Work Research, a group advocating for the social work academic community, and served as President for the first two formative years. She has served on many task forces and committees, including the Vice Presidency of the Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research (IASWR). She has also served on the editorial boards of several journal and publications, including Research and Social Work Practice and the Social Work Dictionary."

Currently, Dr. Williams is Professor of Clinical Psychiatric Social Work in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and a Research Scientist, and Deputy Chief of the Biometrics Research Department at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Her career has focused on the development of psychiatric classifications and instruments to measure psychopathology, and she is well known for her interview guides for the DSM, and for the Hamilton Rating Scales, and the Montgomery and Asberg Depression Rating Scale. She was the only social worker consistently involved in the development of DSM-III, DSM-III-R, and DSM-IV and was made an Honorary Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association for her contributions. She collaborated on the development and testing of the PRIME-MD, an interview guide designed to help primary care physicians make mental disorder diagnoses, and its self-report version, the PHQ, now widely used in primary care.

Dr. Williams is the author of many rating instruments and interview guides and more than 230 scholarly publications. She serves on the editorial boards of several psychiatric and social work journals and is an active consultant to clinical trials on depression. In 1994, Dr. Williams founded the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR), now with more than 1,300 members, and served as its President for two years. She has been inducted into the Columbia University School of Social Work Alumni Association Hall of Fame. In 2000 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from SSWR, and as noted, the Knee/Wittman award from the NASW Foundation in 2005.

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.