Dispatches from the Field is a recurring feature at Innovate@BCSW designed to showcase the school’s commitment to fostering, through field education, fruitful relationships with organizations, both in Boston and around the world, that are providing critical services to those living at the margins of society.
Student: Ryan Mossman, BA ‘09, MSW expected ‘19
Agency Partner: Behavioral Health Enterprise Strategic Program Management Office, Lahey Health Behavioral Services
Responsibilities at the Placement: One of Mossman’s assignments is to work on the Lahey Transformative Research Initiative, a philanthropically funded project with two objectives. The first is to evaluate a recent pilot program that provided comprehensive casework services to complex patients, and the second is to explore disruptive, innovative solutions in health care delivery with an advisory council of thought leaders from across sectors. Mossman has also worked with members of operational leadership designing a new, agency-wide overdose prevention policy that introduces new tools and training to counter the ongoing opioid epidemic.
And while the placement is macro-focused, it does have a frontline clinical component as well. During the fall semester, this included partnering with students at the nearby Greater Lawrence Technical School as they designed and executed research projects on community issues important to them such as bullying, drug use, and teen pregnancy. Drawing on Mossman as an advisor and editor in workshop sessions, the students conducted original research on their chosen issues, drafted formal reports, and presented findings to their peers.
On supervision: Mossman says that he has benefited greatly from the mentorship of field supervisor and BCSSW alumna Scune Carrington.
“All I can say is Scune gets what social work is about. She’s encouraged me to immerse myself in unfamiliar experiences that drive growth, and to tackle the most challenging projects that offer opportunities to make a real difference. But more importantly, she’s been invaluable in helping me to make the absolute most of my field experience.”
What I Learned: “One broad lesson that my placement has reinforced is that the focus must always come back to the client—their needs, their environments, and their lived experiences,” says Mossman. “There’s a risk in macro practice of losing sight of that at times. You can be in a room with brilliant subject matter experts who are designing better policy or brainstorming better service delivery systems, which may well be powerful work, but none of it really matters if you fail to continually critique it through a client’s frame.
“A second lesson has been on the value of cross-sector collaboration in social justice efforts. Many of the challenges that our profession tackles are becoming increasingly complex and larger in scale. Social work alone can’t provide all of the answers, but it can empower you with the tools and the framework to create multidisciplinary collaborations with common goals to arrive at effective and innovative solutions.”
Career Aspirations: Mossman says that his placement at Lahey has had a direct impact on his own vision of where he hopes his career will lead. He sees opportunities to innovate within the health services system, which he was surprised by, and he says that he could potentially see himself as an agent for change in this sector.
“The placement has also opened my eyes to just how many different career options there are for social workers,” he says. “I’ve interacted with people including frontline community health workers, program managers, researchers, operations directors, and our CEO, all of whom have used their MSW to advance their careers to their current place. Now, this hasn’t helped me narrow down my career goals—just the opposite, in fact. But continually realizing the breadth of career opportunities that are available with an MSW from Boston College has been refreshing and energizing.”