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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Robert P. Connolly Photo
Robert P. Connolly

Robert P. Connolly has an illustrious and proven track record of being a successful, pioneering, analytical, and administrative social worker in leadership positions in the private sector and public arena. His experience is extensive in health care, Medicare and Medicaid public policy, and quality measurements. Mr. Connolly is a leader in health care policy in the area of long-term care. 

Throughout his career of more than 45 years, Mr. Connolly has worked to improve social work nationally in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. He utilized his professional acumen to engage and support interdisciplinary long-term care, and nursing home leaders, and researchers to identify ways to involve social work in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service's (CMS) health care and nursing home psychosocial geriatric policies. This pioneering spirit was important because of the emerging CMS policies requiring data focusing on interviewing and patient-centered care for nursing home residents, in order to test a post acute care discharge instrument with coordination across acute and long-term care settings.

Mr. Connolly served as Co-investigator with Sheryl Zimmerman of the University of North Carolina, School of Social Work, the National Association of Social Workers, and the University of Iowa for an Agency for Healthcare Research Interdisciplinary Conference grant entitled “Dissemination and Partnerships to Improve Psychosocial Long Term Care." The focus of the grant was to improve psychosocial outcomes by identifying assessment and care planning instruments in long-term for use by professionals and paraprofessionals. In addition, he served as a Co-facilitator for focus groups of nursing home social workers and administrators to assess clinical capacity and training needs with the implementation of MDS 3.0 (Minimum Data SET, VERSION 3.0, An Assessment Instrument utilized in 1600 nursing homes to determine care planning needs of residents).

Mr. Connolly began his professional career in 1967 as a Child Welfare Worker at the Alameda County Welfare and Probation Department in Oakland, California. He later worked at the Children's Hospital Medical Center, Oakland, California, doing pioneering work in Pediatric Cardiology/Hemophilia Social Work utilizing individual, marital, family, and group intervention techniques. He served as the Assistant Director of Social Work at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland from 1979 to 1982. In this capacity he was responsible for directing social work services and research on the Surgery, Neuroscience and Oncology Units with a staff of 23. From 1982 to 1988 he was Director, Senior Programs and subsequently Social Work Director at the Union Memorial Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland. In addition to directing the social work staff, he was responsible for managing, marketing, and long-term planning for geriatric programs.  

Beginning in 1988, Mr. Connolly worked as a Health Insurance Specialist at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (formerly the Health Care Financing Administration). During the next 20 years at CMS, he used his skills to improve and enhance social work services and practices in the nursing care facilities and long-term care programs. In recognition of his professional contributions, Mr. Connolly received the Secretary of Health and Human Services Team Award for Nursing Home Quality Initiative Activities in 2002.

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.