Virge Luce to Receive SWHPN Award of Excellence in Professional Education

Virge Luce

Clinical Associate Professor Virge Luce has been selected to receive the Social Work Hospice and Palliative Care Network’s (SWHPN) 2019 Award of Excellence in Professional Education at the organization’s annual conference from March 17-19 in Orlando, FL.

SWHPN presents the award annually to individuals whose “accomplishments in education and/or training have brought about changes or enhanced the knowledge base in palliative care,” and whose contributions “have influenced the methods and settings utilized in education and training in ways of significant benefit to palliative social work.” Professor Luce has done just that as the faculty leader and field education liaison for NYU Silver’s Zelda Foster Studies Program in Palliative and End-of-Life Care MSW Fellowship since its inception in 2008. In this role, she has taught, mentored, and evaluated the practice skills of more than 100 Zelda Foster MSW Fellows and provided training and supervisory support to over 200 field instructors in palliative social work settings.

Clinical Professor and Zelda Foster Program Director Susan Gerbino, who nominated Professor Luce for the award, said, “Virge is the consummate educator, with depth of knowledge, supervisory expertise, innovative teaching techniques, ability to address racism and oppression, remarkable interpersonal skills and strong conflict mediation skills.” Dr. Gerbino noted that Professor Luce was a pediatric AIDS pioneer and one of the few clinicians of color in the early years of palliative and end-of-life care (PELC). “She has been a role model to our students of color and brings an anti-oppressive lens and cultural humility to all her teaching. We have been able to recruit students of color to the Fellowship because of her tenacious efforts, and she is now co-leading our newest initiative, Clinicians of Color Forum, to support PELC clinicians of color and provide education about issues of racism and bias.”

Dozens of current and former Zelda Foster MSW Fellows stepped forward to write letters in support of Professor Luce’s nomination for the award. They extolled her ability to train, equip, and empower her students to be effective palliative and end-of-life care social workers. Among them, Anahi Galante, MSW ’15, wrote, “Professor Luce inspired me to learn and apply appropriately the use of self while working with medically fragile patients as well as to manage the pain and anticipatory grief presented by the clients, whether in a hospital or community setting.” Stephanie Jimenez, MSW ’18, said, “Professor Luce encourages me not to feel intimidated in the very white universe of the medical field. She empowers students like me to stand up for change and advocate for patients who do not speak the English language and defend their humanistic needs.“ Meagan Leimena, MSW ’13, who is co-author of the book Palliative Care: A Guide for Health Social Workers (Oxford University Press, 2019), said, “Professor Luce’s attunement and sensitivity to the experience of a new student trying to find her way in palliative care, grappling with questions theoretical and logistical, has remained with me.”

Professor Luce has over forty years’ experience educating MSW students and supervising clinicians with a focus on those specializing in HIV/AIDS, Palliative Care and End-of-Life, Parkinson’s disease, and health care broadly. She has been a full-time faculty member at NYU Silver since 2006, and currently also serves as the School’s Seminar in Field Instruction (SIFI) Coordinator and Director of the Post Master’s Certificate Program in Clinical Supervision. She received the 2011 Social Work Leadership Award from the NASW-NYC Latino Social Work Task Force for her dedication and commitment to social work education and the great strides that she has achieved in encouraging and supporting Latino students and social workers in the community.