Ms. Brenda Hyleman, director of the Office for the Study of Aging within the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health, was named Outstanding Social Worker of the Year by the South Carolina chapter of the National Association of Social Workers at the organization’s Spring Symposium on March 24.
“It is wonderful to receive this award during Professional Social Work Month, as declared by Nikki Haley’s Governor’s Proclamation,” Ms. Hyleman says. After earning a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Georgia and working with the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for 31 years, Ms. Hyleman joined the Office for the Study of Aging in 2014. In her current role, she oversees the award-winning Dementia Dialogues program and the S.C. Alzheimer’s and Dementia Registry. Ms. Hyleman also works closely with DHHS to facilitate the delivery of new programs while serving as a liaison between USC faculty and practitioners to ensure that innovative research continues to help inform the future of social work.
Among her various appointments and honors, Ms. Hyleman has served as president of the S.C. Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (2004-2006) and was named Public Health Social Worker of the Year by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control in 2005. Her interest in social work grew from her desire to help people problem solve and learn to be their own advocates. “I’ve worked with older adults my entire professional career in a variety of settings,” she says. “It’s just always been a natural fit for me.” Ms. Hyleman has worked in both public and private sectors developing and providing services to older adults and their families, finding it both challenging and rewarding. “It’s so important for everyone to know how to access help when it’s needed since eventually we all experience the aging process either directly or indirectly with a family member,” Ms. Hyleman explains.
Including students in their organization as well as their annual awards is one way that the National Association of Social Workers helps ensure that this assistance will always be available. In fact, Arnold School graduate student Ms. Sara Goldsby has been honored with the 2015 Chris Parker Master of Social Work Student of the Year Award. Ms. Goldsby is not only completing a masters’ degree in social work but is working toward a Master of Public Health in the Arnold School’s Department of Health Services Policy and Management as well. She is the president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement Open School Chapter at USC and is a major contributor to the university’s interprofessional education efforts by serving on the steering committee and facilitating a section of the Transforming Healthcare for the Future course. Ms. Goldsby was also chosen to serve as Special Projects Assistant for the director of the S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services, helping to establish the Governor’s Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Council and shape related policies. Last year she organized the first student-run health screening fair at First Nazareth Baptist Church in Columbia, and the year before that she traveled to India to help promote health policy and practice. After she graduates with her two degrees, Ms. Goldsby says, “I plan to stay in South Carolina to pursue opportunities for improving health systems in our state.”
Given the overlapping missions of public health and social work, pursuing dual degrees in these programs in one way students can optimize their preparation for the field. Aaron Guest, a masters’ degree student in both the College of Social Work and the Arnold School’s Department of Health Promotion, Education and Behavior, won the Student of the Year Award in 2014. Guest also happens to be a graduate assistant in Ms. Hyleman’s Office for the Study of Aging.
“We have a great track record of Arnold School students earning recognition for their efforts in the field of social work,” says Ms. Hyleman. “Social work and public health share a strong commitment to social justice, the elimination of health disparities and the provision of both prevention and intervention services,” she explains. “Since many social work positons are located in health care settings, public health and social work complement each other well and allow for a variety of career opportunities.”