After receiving her master of social work degree, Soroya Pognon, MSW ’05, accepted a job offer from the site of her second-year placement—a 128-bed psychiatric hospital in Northern New Jersey. Throughout her nine-year tenure there, she advanced from discharge planner to program therapist and finally to director of risk management. In October, she left to take a position with a professional liability company that helps improve health care delivery and protect professionals and organizations that provide it. As a clinical patient safety analyst, Pognon conducts medical record audits, reviewing and analyzing patient records and looking for high-risk activity in obstetrics and other clinical service areas at participating hospitals.
Pognon’s interest in social work first arose as she was finishing her undergraduate degree at Montclair State University, when she learned that a family friend was employed as a social worker investigating child fatalities. The work interested her, she was familiar with NYU’s program, and things quickly fell into place. In May of 2003, she received her bachelor’s in family and child studies from Montclair State University, and by the fall of 2003 she was “on the PATH train on my way to NYU.”
Pognon credits the NYU Silver School of Social Work with preparing her to enter the field. The program’s intensity evolved her perception of social work, and helped her transition from viewing social work as an intangible concept she enjoyed to a viable career that she loves.
“I knew that social work was something that I liked,” she said, “but that mind shift that ‘this is a career that you’re getting yourself into’ came with some challenges. I had to grow up.”
A rigorous first-year placement at a psychiatric hospital helped: “I’m grateful for that great placement. When you work in a [psychiatric] internship your first year, everything else is like a cakewalk.”
Pognon embodies the social work tenet of continuing education. After graduating from the Silver School, she went on to obtain a second degree in health administration from Seton Hall University. As a social worker in a hospital system, the second degree “helps you appreciate your system and understand the decisions that are being made that impact the work that you do.” She also strongly encourages new MSW graduates to take a basic business class. She explained, “Just understanding the financial ins and outs of the systems to which I’ve been exposed has been invaluable.”
Pognon is a fierce proponent for the importance of social workers’ self-worth. When asked to share her insights with current MSW students, Pognon said:
“[As social workers], we are so humble, and that’s a great thing. But it’s really easy when you’re humble to undervalue the great assets that you bring to the systems to which we contribute. We do so much, and we’re worth a lot. I used to tell the interns: ‘know your worth.’ You’re worth a lot. You’re paying a lot to get this degree and contributing a lot to this team, so you should always know that when you negotiate for a job. Know your product, and your work ethic, and sell that. We are fabulous, and we need that.”
Pognon credits NYU for giving her the tools she needed to help build a successful career. Reflecting on her experiences since graduating, she is grateful to have found a field in which “you never get bored.” And for better or worse, she is thankful to have chosen her career path. “You will never run out of work. You’re a social worker. You just don’t.”
By Penelope Yates, MSW ’16