May 6, 2019
Social workers are frequently called upon to be patient, resourceful, positive and generous. Laura Beth Brown exemplifies these qualities. She furthers them by inspiring others to be tireless and devoted to helping improve the lives of those around her. Though she has only been working in social services for three years she has made a measurable difference in the quality of life for people in the University of Alabama and Tuscaloosa community.
Currently, Brown is the sole staff social worker at the Office of Case Management and Social Service at the University Medical Center (UMC) within the College of Continuing Health Studies.
It is for her exemplary work ethic, problem solving ability and dedication to helping people that she was awarded the E. Roger Sayers Distinguished Service Award at the 2019 Capstone Awards ceremony. The award was created in 1996 to recognize UA faculty and exempt administrative personnel who have performed in an exemplary manner to further the mission of the University.
“She’s the type of person who never says no,” said Paige Parish, who peer-nominated Brown for the award. “She says let’s find a solution for this.”
Brown was hired as an intern to work for the University Medical Student while studying at the School of Social Work. She made a strong impression within her first two months and was asked to work as a fellow for the inaugural year of the Pickens County Partnership Program. While working there she served the rural communities in West Alabama daily and created the Pickens County Resource Guide in 2017.
Once when a client’s home was overrun with bedbugs and they were unable to retrieve their belonging for an extermination, she and another fellow purchased hazmat’s suits to go into the apartment and prep it for debugging.
Dr. Bob McKinney, Director of the University Medical Center Office of Case Management and Social Services, said that in addition to her work as a social worker herself she prioritizes educating others. She has completely reshaped the educational component of the field placement for social work students making the program one of the most unique in the country.
“She’s incredibly passionate about the clients and her students,” McKinney said. “She’s persistent. She doesn’t want to stop until she finds a solution.”
Brown said she wants to use this award as a call to action to raise awareness of what social workers are capable of providing for their community. She said social workers are one of the most valuable all-purpose tools available to the general public. Social workers are often licensed to provide counseling, resource management and client liaison with doctors, lawyers and pharmacists. Social workers can help to translate complicated legal, insurance or tax documents that may not make sense to someone not familiar with the jargon.
“There’s a lot that social workers can do for our clients,” Brown said. “We are really good at advocating for our patients and clients, but we have a hard time advocating for ourselves.”
When Brown was informed of the lack of options for breastfeeding mothers on gamedays she immediately started working to find a way to help them. In the past nursing mothers had nowhere to go unless they used a temporary toilet stall on the quad. Brown worked with the organizers of the Family Friendly Tailgate to create the Nursing Mothers Tent as a designated private space for nursing women.
Social work departments rely on community partners and resources to provide the care and support their clients need. Often those seeking social services are the people least able to access help by any other means due to poverty, a lack of local resources or other impairments. Social work professionals assist people from infancy to geriatric care.
“It’s hard, difficult work, but we address it. We take it day-by-day,” Brown said. “We figure out what’s wrong and how to best help people with the resources that are available to us.”