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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Carl G. Leukefeld Photo
Carl G. Leukefeld

Carl G. Leukefeld, DSW, is an internationally known social worker who has performed pioneering research, teaching, and clinical service development in the behavioral aspects of drug and alcohol addictions and other serious illnesses. His concerns in the areas of prevention of addictions and disabilities made him one of the first clinicians and researchers to identify the link between drug users and HIV/AIDS. Leukefeld has had an outstanding career as a commissioned social worker in the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) from 1967-1990. For more than a decade (since 1990), he has directed clinical research in addictions at the College of Medicine, University of Kentucky. He is now Chair of the Department of Behavioral Science, College of Medicine, and Director of the Center on Drug and Alcohol Research. In addition to his position in the College of Medicine, Leukefeld also holds a joint appointment in the School of Social Work at University of Kentucky. 

His first assignment in the USPHS began with the Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), where Leukefeld was responsible for developing and monitoring patient care contracts for narcotic addicts in several Western states. In 1971, he was assigned to the headquarters of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and later the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA).  As he continued working in the addiction field, Leukefeld was afforded increased responsibilities for research, program development, and management, and was selected to serve on many policy-related task forces and committees related to his special knowledge about the human and behavioral factors associated with addictions. 

Some of the research areas in which Leukefeld specialized included evaluation of the efficiency of prevention and treatment techniques in the field of drug addiction, especially, the outcome of mandated treatment, and the development of new approaches and their application. For eight years he served as Deputy Director and Interim Acting Director in the Division of Clinical Research at NIDA. Among Leukefeld’s specific studies were health promotion, disease prevention, and clinical research studies focused on preventing the onset and spread of AIDS among drug users and their spouses and offspring. 

Throughout his career, Leukefeld has been active in professional organizations, including NASW. He served as editor of the National Health Line for Health and Social Work Journal, contributed articles to the Social Work Encyclopedia, and gave many presentations at national conferences. Characteristically, he made many efforts to present his knowledge about developments in public health and medical research to his colleagues. Leukefeld is also active in several other professional organizations, including the Kentucky Society for Clinical Social Work, the American Public Health Association, and the Society for Prevention Research. He was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award by the Catholic University of America, and the 2003 Knee/Wittman Lifetime Achievement Award in Health and Mental Health Practice by the NASW Foundation.

Leukefeld grew up in Missouri and received his Bachelor of Science Degree from Missouri Valley College, in Marshall. He earned his Master of Social Work Degree from the University of Michigan in 1967, and was awarded a Doctor of Social Work Degree from the Catholic University of America in 1975.

NASW Social Work Pioneer - 2003

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.