Social workers promote individual and community wellbeing, supporting people through some of life’s most difficult challenges, and this includes Emily Duberman, LCSW, CHES, the Ryan White Lead Social Worker at the UNC Eastowne Infectious Diseases Clinic. Read how Emily came to work in infectious diseases and what she finds particularly gratifying about her work with patients.
WHAT DO YOU DO AT THE CLINIC?
“I provide services under the Ryan White grant for people living with HIV. We primarily provide medical case management, mental health, and substance use services. We target those who have barriers to adherence, largely when those barriers are psychosocial. We link people to resources such as housing, transportation, mental health/substance use services, emergency financial assistance and food.”
HOW DID YOU CHOOSE INFECTIOUS DISEASES?
“I felt that it was the niche field that combined my passion for sex education and social justice. After my first internship in an HIV nonprofit, I also realized how amazingly passionate people are in this field and began advocating for the LGBT community.”
WHAT BROUGH YOU TO UNC ID?
“I had worked in HIV case management since my second Masters in Social Worker internship. I had recently left a year stint in Chicago to be closer to family and the warm weather in NC. In Chicago I had worked for an HIV nonprofit where I traveled to hospital Emergency Departments to meet with folks newly diagnosed with HIV or out of care and relink them. My parents are both in the medical field so I grew up in and around hospitals and always felt most comfortable in that setting! I also appreciated the mission of UNC and wanted to be a part of that.
DID YOU ALWAYS WANT TO BE A SOCIAL WORKER?
“Growing up in Boston, I wanted to be a vet and then a film director! But after a summer in film school in Baltimore, I realized that I wanted to be a helper of people. I went to college for public health education with a focus on sex education. Realizing I wanted to focus on social justice and work with people one-on-one, I went on to get a Masters in Social Work. HIV social work allows me to practice in both my fields.”
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN YOUR WORK?
“It’s not exactly new, but I am excited about the greater attention to trauma-informed care.”
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE FOR YOU?
“On a typical day, I may be juggling Lyft rides for our patients to their appointments, teaching coping skills for panic attacks, linking a patient to a food pantry or rent assistance, and/or assessing someone for suicidal/homicidal ideation. We try to incorporate trauma-informed principles into our work by holding the patient’s self-determination in the highest regard, creating a collaborative space, and building rapport and resiliency over time by building trust through empathy and empowerment. I also incorporate trauma informed leadership to build a strong, connected team that has good boundaries, and self-care and compassion.”
WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST REWARDING ABOUT YOUR WORK?
“My patients and colleagues are incredibly creative and authentic people. I feel challenged and encouraged to continue to improve. We have a great team. I am never bored.”
IS THERE A PARTICULAR ACHIEVEMENT (PROFESSIONAL OR PERSONAL) THAT HAS BEEN MOST GRATIFYING TO YOU?
“There isn’t one thing in particular. I have loved to witness the growth of many of our patients in the years that I have been here. Each time I see one of my patients grow in their independence and empowerment, it feels like an achievement.”
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
“From my Buddhist center, I have learned to view every ‘difficult’ person (or situation) as if that person was a spiritual teacher, in order to practice boundless compassion. This includes compassion towards yourself.”
IF YOU WEREN’T A SOCIAL WORKER, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE DOING?
“I would probably be working at a dog shelter, walking dogs and rehabilitating them.”
WHAT HOBBIES DO YOU ENJOY?
“I just enjoy spending time with friends and family. I like trying new things like stained glass, embroidering and pickleball.”
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE QUOTE OR LIFE MOTTO?
“I always try to challenge myself and others to think about a person or situation compassionately, for the sake of themselves and the situation. Even with the little things, like a car cutting me off in traffic, I sometimes imagine that maybe they urgently needed to get to their grandmother’s house to take care of her after a fall. It may not be true, but it helps me to not have so many negative thoughts all the time.”
WHAT WAS THE LAST BOOK YOU READ?
“I’m not a big reader so that last show I watched was The Empress on Netflix!”