Avery Levine, MSW '19, Awarded AOSW's Palliative Care and End-of-Life Scholarship

Avery Levine (right) with Bryan Miller, LCSW, OSW-C, from the AOSW Awards Committee.
Avery Levine (right) with Bryan Miller, LCSW, OSW-C, from the AOSW Awards Committee.

Avery Levine, a Class of 2019 MSW graduate and MSW Fellow in our Zelda Foster Studies Program in Palliative and End-of-Life Care (PELC), was awarded the Association of Oncology Social Work’s (AOSW) Palliative Care and End-of-Life Scholarship to its annual conference, which was held in Tuscon, AZ, June 5-7, 2019. The competitive scholarship, awarded to one MSW student each year, was established in 2006 in memory of longstanding AOSW member and PELC leader Betty Vargo. In addition to the scholarship, which covers conference travel costs and registration fees, Levine received an award at the conference itself.

Levine, who applied for the AOSW scholarship with the support of Zelda Foster Program Director Susan Gerbino and Field Education Faculty Leader Virge Luce, said she looks forward to expanding her knowledge at the conference. “In my application,” Levine said, “I spoke a lot about enhancing my clinical skills and understanding more about macro issues involved in PELC, specifically in oncology, which is my passion. I also hope to present at the AOSW conference in the future, so I will be paying particular attention to what people are presenting and how they are interacting in each session I attend.”

As a Zelda Foster MSW Fellow, Levine did her second year field placement at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Inpatient Adult Leukemia Program, where she was supervised by Emily P. Sherlock, LCSW, an Oncology Social Worker and recent Zelda Foster Leadership Fellowship graduate. Sherlock, a fellow NYU Silver MSW alum, was also a Zelda Foster MSW Fellow, and in 2012 received the same AOSW scholarship Levine received this year.

In her internship, Levine said, she saw an average of 6 or 7 patients a day and was involved in the hospital’s cohort of acute and chronic care interns, who attended seminars held by the hospital’s social work department. “Along with the other members of my team,” she said, “I helped my patients find peace. We did a good job of looking out for their best interests, taking into account their goals and wishes at the end of their lives. Likewise, for patients with good prognoses, I strove to be aware of challenges that they might face and make sure I was considering the entirety of the person, not just their disease.”

Levine said she was motived to pursue oncology social work in part by her grandmother, a nurse who worked as cancer information specialist at Memorial Sloan Kettering for over 20 years. “She taught me a lot about oncology and the importance of understanding the differences people bring into the room.” Levine also cited her own experience as a premature twin baby whose survival was in doubt, and her desire to make a difference in people's lives.

Although she has graduated from NYU Silver’s MSW program, Levine will continue in the Zelda Foster MSW Fellowship for another three years, with two more years of mentorship and a final year of funding for professional development. Furthermore, the program has given her a permanent network of alumni and affiliates, including many of the country’s leading PELC social work professionals. “The Zelda Foster Program has provided incredible opportunities – including this AOSW scholarship – that are aligned with what I want to do,” Levine said. “PELC is very hard but very rewarding work, and it is amazing to be part of this community and to have this support system.”