Illustration: Andrea D’Aquino


Closing the Health Care Gap

The School of Social Work is partnering with Massachusetts' largest health care provider to train social workers who understand the language and cultures of Boston's growing Latinx population. 

Nearly 19 percent of Bostonians identified as Hispanic on the 2020 census, and since 1980, Latinx communities have accounted for 92 percent of the city’s population growth. And these numbers are likely to keep rising, as almost a third of Boston’s children are Latinx. Yet it’s not always easy for these residents to find or access social workers who are fluent in their language and culture. To address this critical gap, the BC School of Social Work’s Latinx Leadership Initiative (LLI) has received a $600,000 grant from Mass General Brigham to increase the state’s workforce of bilingual and bicultural social workers.

The grant will allow the LLI to provide living stipends and professional development for students in the School of Social Work’s master of social work program as they complete behavioral rotations in community health settings that predominantly serve Latinx communities. After the inaugural cohort of four fellows graduate in 2022, LLI and Mass General Brigham—the state’s largest health care provider—will select at least ten fellows each academic year. “There is an acute need for behavioral health providers in Latinx communities, especially after those communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” said Associate Professor Rocío Calvo, the LLI’s founding director and the new grant’s principal investigator. “Mass General Brigham’s goal is to address that need, and we have a history of training professionals to do that work successfully.”

The funds will also bolster Calvo’s ongoing research on effective strategies for training and supporting bilingual, bicultural social workers. Calvo and her team plan to interview and survey LLI alumni to identify systemic barriers that Latinx social workers face on the job. “The interventions of this grant target the systemic issues that prevent Latinx social workers from developing their careers and Latinx clients from accessing adequate care,” she said.

Since Calvo founded the LLI in 2013, some 185 students have graduated from the program, in which all eight of BC’s core social work courses are taught entirely in Spanish. Alumni today work with Latinx and Hispanic communities in diverse settings around the globe. The initiative has been recognized as a Model Program for Diversity Education by the Council on Social Work Education’s Center for Diversity and Social & Economic Justice, and it received a top national award from Excelencia! in Education in 2020.

“The LLI is pathbreaking, and it does far more than train bilingual social workers,” said BC School of Social Work Dean Gautam N. Yadama. “The goal is to transform social services and health systems to sustain a high level of engagement with Latinx families and communities to address their compound needs. In partnering with Mass General Brigham, we are extending the reach of our premier social work training that is evidence-based and culturally attuned to serving our Latinx populations in Massachusetts.” 

More from the Lab

More than $1.5 million from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation will fund the installation of two state-of-the-art nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers at BC’s Magnetic Resonance Center. The instruments, which facilitate the study of the physical, chemical, and biological properties of matter, will replace years-old equipment, support a range of research, and make analyzing lab samples more efficient. 

The first fifteen Schiller Institute Grants for Exploratory Collaborative Scholarship have been awarded to BC researchers and professors who are working together to tackle real-world problems. Among the funded projects are a faculty-led climate change seminar and a study of participants in the Senior Community Service Employment Program, a federally funded job-training initiative.

Image of a microfossil

BC paleobotanist Paul Strother has coauthored a new report in Science that could alter conventional wisdom on the evolution of land plants. After examining 480 million-year-old microfossils from Australia, Strother and his collaborator determined that terrestrial plants appear to have evolved slowly from freshwater algae—from simple cellularity to complex multicellularity—rather than in great leaps between species. —Elizabeth Clemente

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