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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Harold "Hal" Lipton Photo
Harold "Hal" Lipton

Harold "Hal" Lipton’s educational background is rich and diverse. He graduated with a BA from Syracuse University and received his MSW from Columbia University School of Social Work. He also has taken MBA program courses at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Lipton has been an exemplary and dedicated social worker since entering the field more than 40 years ago and has been at the forefront of progress in the areas of medical social work, group work, and services to Veterans.

Mr. Lipton's professional career has been grounded in the area of Medical Social Work. From 1966-1970, he practiced as a social worker and supervisor at the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital in the Bronx, New York. There, he created and led groups for recently injured patients returning from the war in Vietnam, and assisted in discharge planning of patients with extensive spinal cord injuries. Through his work, he became aware of the need for a comprehensive therapeutic community and enhanced communication between patients and staff. Mr. Lipton not only worked to achieve this in his workplace, but also devoted much of his career and academia to these issues.

Throughout his career, he has been committed to advancing the services of the field. From 1973-1998, he served as the Director of Social Service at four major hospitals in Washington, D.C., Ohio and California. His contributions to these institutions are insurmountable and go far beyond what is noted here. Mr. Lipton was instrumental in creating  widespread change in the breadth and delivery of social work services in hospitals. Between the years of 1973-1977, he worked at the Children's Hospital Medical Center in Akron, Ohio where he developed groups for parents of children with cancer, established social work services in the emergency room, and established a child abuse prevention center run entirely by volunteers.

Mr. Lipton then moved to the Children's National Medical Center in Washington D.C. from 1977-1989 where he developed and served on Ethics Committees, provided interpersonal training for national groups of EMTs and paramedics, created a regional support group for social workers serving HIV patients/families and supervised and managed 30 social workers in medical, abuse, and psychiatry programs. Mr. Lipton was also successful in pioneering the advancement of the medical social work profession by doubling the amount of social work positions in the hospitals where he worked in Akron and Washington, D.C. 

Between the years of 1989-1993, Mr. Lipton worked at The Children's Hospital in Oakland, California. Among his many notable accomplishments during this time include the establishment of the first hospital Employee Assistance Program, groundbreaking work with trauma patients following the devastating earthquake and fires in the area, and assisting in the obtainment of grant funds to treat HIV/AIDS patients. In addition, he provided direct care and supervision. Under his immediate management and supervision were 30 social workers, a child abuse program, a chaplain, and interpreters.

Finally, Mr. Lipton served as Director of Family Services and Assistant Administrator at The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, D.C. from 1993-1998. Utilizing his years of experience in the direct practice level, Mr. Lipton was able to bring about systemic change as an administrator. He re-organized the Ethics Committee and served as the leader of the Ethics Program, he worked to improve the referral process in order to reduce tension between The Hospital for Sick Children and an acute care hospital, and assisted in securing a $7 million grant from The National Institutes of Health (NIH ) to build on and improve current services.

Mr. Lipton is a committed and active member of the NASW. He was elected as President of the D.C. Metro NASW Chapter in 2008. He is also an accomplished author. A renowned expert in the field of social work practice in the medical setting, Mr. Lipton has an extensive list of publications on a wide range of medical related issues. His published articles cover such topics as: working with a parent who has lost a child; the role of the social worker as a mediator on a hospital ward; the mental health needs of emergency medical care providers; and, the art of communicating with family members of trauma patients and hospital group work. Mr. Lipton's writing and extensive knowledge have been, and continue to be, a tremendous contribution to the field.

In addition to his distinguished service in hospital-based practice, Mr. Lipton has continued his pioneering work as a policy analyst, strategist, and advocate for his clients and their families. He has been dedicated to ensuring that all children have access to proper health care and has been active in fighting against the injustices he has been exposed to. He has worked with parents of the patients in the Children's Hospital and assisted them in preparing for Congressional and White House hearings and meetings on Medicaid issues related to their child's illness. 

Mr. Lipton has provided exemplary service to the social work profession, the larger community, and the National Association of Social Workers in numerous ways. His practice has spanned both public and voluntary sectors and has had a significant impact on civil society. In addition to NASW, he is also a member of the Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care where he served as President of the D.C. Chapter from 2001-2003.  He is a 2014 recipient of the NASW Foundation Knee/Wittman Lifetime Achievement Award in Health and Mental Health Practice.

Mr. Lipton also has served as a consultant for such distinguished organizations as: Maryland National Guard; Andrews Air Force Base; the American Trauma Society, and the American Psychological Association. He provided free mental health care to firefighters and families in dealing with the World Trade Center attacks and established a group for new widows. Because of his expertise on the subject, Mr. Lipton was selected to provide consultation to the Director of Medical Care of the New York City Fire Department about how emergency mental health services could be organized to deal with crises.

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.