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Linda Mathew, MSW '01 Honored as Mid-Career Exemplary Leader

December 2, 2016

The National Association of Social Workers, New York City Chapter (NASW-NYC) has honored NYU Silver alumna Linda Mathew, LCSW, OSW-C, with its Mid-Career Exemplary Leader Award for her outstanding leadership, expertise, and dedication to the profession.

A specialist in palliative and end-of-life care (PELC), Ms. Mathew has spent the past five-and-a-half years as a Clinical Social Worker at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and was recently promoted to a Senior Clinical Social Worker. She co-coordinates the Caregivers Program and co-leads Kids Express, which provides support programs for families affected by cancer. She was previously a social worker at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ), where, among other roles during her seven-and-a-half-year tenure, she was the leader of the Breast Cancer Support Group and facilitated a program called CLIMB®, designed to help children whose parents were diagnosed with cancer.

Ms. Mathew said that when she earned her MSW at NYU in 2001, she did not plan to go into PELC. It was after she joined CINJ that she found that calling. “It came up organically,” she said. “Through the work, I found that patients and their families need to start talking about PELC when they are diagnosed rather than waiting until they are at end of life.”

Ms. Mathew’s expertise in PELC was honed when she assumed her current position at Memorial and was encouraged by the Social Work Department Director, Penny Damaskos, to apply for NYU Silver’s Zelda Foster Post-Master’s Leadership Fellowship in PELC. She was accepted into the 18-month program, in which fellows receive leadership training, are paired with an experienced PELC mentor, and develop a capstone project. Ms. Mathews’ capstone, focused on helping parents with stage IV cancer communicate and create a legacy with their children when they are transitioning to the last line of treatment or hospice, was the foundation of a research project she co-designed with a colleague at Sloan Kettering. That project, entitled “Creating a communication tool for families at end of life,” is being funded by a grant from Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Patient Centered Care Initiative. “Once we receive approval from Sloan Kettering’s Institutional Review Board,” she said, “we will begin holding focus groups, developing the tool, and working with different populations to see if it is adaptable and effective for their families. Ideally it will be feasible to as an online video so patients can access it whether they are in a rural hospital or urban cancer center.”

Ms. Mathew said that the research she is now conducting is a step towards fulfilling her professional goal. She explained, “If this results in a viable tool for use by any oncology or PELC social worker, then I will have left a legacy and a mark in my field. I am proud to be pushing the practice forward, and am grateful to work at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where innovation is encouraged.”

She said her experience at NYU Silver prepared her to seize opportunities to advance the profession. “One thing that was always stressed at NYU was that as a social worker you are going to be wearing multiple hats, as a clinician, advocate, and change agent. Because I was taught that in school, I am always looking at how things can evolve and change.”

As well as through her research and practice, Ms. Mathew is advancing the profession as a mentor to a graduate in the Zelda Foster Studies’ MSW Fellowship program and a booster for the field. “I encourage young people to pursue social work because it is the one profession in which the mission is to empower patients and at the same time address both program development and public policies.”

Ms. Mathew recalled that while she was at NYU in 2001, she received NASW-NYC’s Student of the Year Award, and expressed gratitude for this new recognition from the chapter 15 years into her career. It is an honor that is richly deserved, as she is truly an exemplary leader in the field. 

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