- School of Social Work Distinguished Alumni Award (2021)
From the moment Sandy Chaken left New York for IUSSW she has shown courage, conviction, and determination in bringing innovative services into New York City’s public hospital system and improving the lives of innumerable patients and their families. Throughout her career, she has successfully advocated for and demonstrated the importance of the social work perspective in areas such as disaster response, the treatment of AIDS patients, and gang violence. Sandy has helped to elevate the voice of social workers in New York City and beyond.
Sandy graduated from IUSSW with a Master of Social Work degree in 1973. After graduation she returned to New York and worked at the Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn, an institution dedicated to the care of chronically ill, institutionalized children and adults, as well as an acute care facility. At Kingsbrook, Sandy was a social worker in the Children’s Rehabilitation Unit working with children with spinal bifida, cerebral palsy, and multiple dystrophy.
When a new Oncology unit opened, she volunteered to be the first social worker while also maintaining her caseload on Children’s Rehabilitation. When the hospital won a grant to open a community mental health center for neurologically impaired children and adults, she again volunteered to be the social worker for the program and eventually to her dream position as the Director of Social Work at Jacobi Medical Center, the hospital she went to as a child and first learned about social work.
From Kingsbrook, Sandy accepted a position as a SW Supervisor at Gouverneur Diagnostic and Treatment Center, which is part of the public hospital system of NYC, the largest in the country. Here Sandy managed staff in the outpatient services and the skilled nursing facility. During Sandy’s tenure the AIDS epidemic was at its height and she developed a program where social workers took the lead role in becoming HIV counselors and providing long term counseling for those diagnosed with the disease.
When a position as Associate Director of Social Work in Medicine and Surgery became available at Jacobi Medical Center she immediately applied. She had long wished to work at Jacobi but the timing always seemed to be off. When she was accepted for the position, she was thrilled, and little did she know she would eventually become the Director. Jacobi is one of New York City’s 11 public hospitals.
While at Jacobi she became a member on the NYS Board of Social Work and became active in consumer protection, disciplinary hearings, and social work licensure, particularly for medical social workers.
Following 40 years as a medical social worker and Director of Social Work, Sandy retired from Jacobi Medical Center in December 2016.
In 2018 the NASW Foundation selected Sandy as an NASW Social Work Pioneer. It remains one of the highlights of her career and one, which started as a social work student at IU.