William Beaumont Army Medical Center social workers celebrated National Professional Social Work Month by conducting a forum, March 21, at the Army Community Service Family Resilience Center.

The forum was themed "Domestic Violence and Gender Differences" and provided WBAMC social workers and behavioral health specialists the opportunity to highlight the importance of this much-needed profession in the medical community.

Lt. Col. Liquori Etheridge, deputy chief of the Department of Behavioral Health, WBAMC, along with several social work interns planned and executed the forum event, in hopes that attendees would recognize the importance of social workers.

"I want everyone to be able to reflect on why we do what we do, the importance of what we do, and despite the stress that is involved with what we do, it's about providing that service and need to our Soldiers and military families," said Etheridge.

Etheridge feels WBAMC social workers and behavioral health specialists are passionate about their craft and this event gave them the opportunity to reflect on the importance of behavioral health readiness for service members. "This event helps us reflect, recharge, and focus on the needs of our patients," said Etheridge.

Virginia Martinez, licensed clinical social worker and project manager of the Child Welfare Training Collaborative at the Department of Social Work, University of Texas at El Paso, was a guest speaker at the forum and presented the audience with guidance on maintaining a resilient perspective in their field of work. It is critical to practice self-care in order to be a "clean instrument of change" for their clients.

"Social work is basically the last stop for crisis or traumatic issues," said Martinez. "For military members and their families dealing with these issues, it can interfere with daily life and the need for professional intervention to address these issues requires a strong perspective."

That is why social workers and mental health professionals need to ensure they are at their best to be able to ethically service the patient when working in the heart of the matter. In the professional use of self, social workers must be aware of our own biases and judgements and how to regulate or nurture themselves in order for their own issues not to interfere with the purpose of their calling, said Martinez.

The forum continued with a presentation from Ona Ramsey, licensed clinical social worker, WBAMC, on her doctoral research about domestic violence and gender differences.

Carey Curran, clinical social worker, Family Advocacy Program, appreciated the forum where she could become refreshed on her skilled profession.

"This is the one time of the year where we can all get together and focus on what we do," said Curran. "The presentation about domestic violence and gender differences is near and dear to my heart because I work with Family Advocacy and that is what we do, day in and day out. Our goal is to make families healthy."

The forum ended with a final presentation about substance abuse and the collaborative efforts of prevention by Elizabeth Depew, licensed clinical social worker, and her husband, Richard Depew, a prevention coordinator at the Fort Bliss Army Substance Abuse Program.

National Professional Social Work Month is celebrated every year during the month of March. The forum is a true way of providing readiness through patient-friendly access to high-quality healthcare to patients who could benefit from their services.