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It could be in the criminal justice system… the mental health system, it could be… whatever system for me when I think about, are you willing to give up some power?… How do you reduce the distance between yourself and the people that you’re working with in order to work with them instead of prescribe to them. And it’s about accepting that the power dynamic exists and then working to reduce that distance.”

Elizabeth Bowen, Diane Elze, Isok Kim, & Charles Syms

In this episode, the second of two parts, Professors Elizabeth Bowen, Diane Elze, Isok Kim, and Charles Syms of the University at Buffalo School of Social Work continue their conversation about how they have approached the topic of systemic racism with their social work students. Here the panel’s discussion shifts to why they believe it is important for social work education to specifically address the issue of racism. They also explore this topic from the School of Social Work’s trauma-informed, human rights perspective.

Elizabeth Bowen, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at the University at Buffalo. Her research centers on housing as a social determinant of health, with a focus on the intersection of homelessness, addiction, and HIV/AIDS. Her teaching interests include addiction, social welfare history and policy, and community social work courses. Prior to going into academia, Bowen worked as a social worker managing harm reduction-based supportive housing programs for individuals who were homeless and HIV positive in Chicago.

Diane Elze is an Associate Professor and the Director of the MSW Program in the University at Buffalo School of Social Work. Her research is on the well-being of LGBTQ youth. For years, she has conducted community trainings on cultural competence, cultural engagement, and anti-oppressive social work practice. She co-wrote the Faculty Council Statement on Black Lives Matter. She has also developed curricular materials on cultural competence and cultural engagement for the UB Office of Interprofessional Education.

Isok Kim, PhD LCSW is assistant professor at the University at Buffalo School of Social Work. He received his PhD in Social Work and Psychology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 2012. He currently teaches courses related to diversity and multicultural issues, as they relate to mental health of ethnic minorities. His research focuses on social determinants of physical and mental health among immigrants and refugees in the United States. Currently, he has collaborated with local community organizations to survey baseline mental health status among refugees from Burma resettled in Buffalo, NY. Finally, he has extensive clinical practice experience with immigrants and refugees.

Charles Syms, LCSW/ACSW, is a clinical associate professor who has been a member of faculty at the graduate School of social work at the University of Buffalo since 1998. He has over thirty-five years of professional social work practice including work in child welfare, domestic violence, forensic mental health, and substance use disorders. Additionally, he shares his experience and expertise as a member of agency based and professional advisory boards at the local, state and national level. A past National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) Minority Research Fellow; his current teaching and research interest include: the treatment of individuals with substance use disorders, particularly the impact of alcohol and other drugs on people with mental health problems, and those involved with child welfare system; as well as extending education into the online environment.

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