Penn Researcher Earns Distinguished Career Achievement Award

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Media Contact:Jill DiSanto | jdisanto@upenn.edu | 215-898-4820January 2, 2014

Phyllis Solomon, a researcher and professor in the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, will receive the Distinguished Career Achievement Award at the 18th Annual Society for Social Work and Research conference Jan. 15-19 in San Antonio.

Solomon has spent a lifetime dedicated to researching adults with severe mental illness and their families. As an expert in mental health service delivery issues and psychiatric rehabilitation, her research has highlighted the effectiveness of family interventions and peer-provided services, as well as the intersection of criminal justice and mental health services.

“Professor Phyllis Solomon has long been one of the leaders in the field of severe mental illness and mental health services,” Richard J. Gelles, the dean of the School, said. “Her recognition by the Society for Social Work Research is a testimony to her exceptional scholarly contributions.”

Solomon’s research into the treatment of people with severe psychiatric disorders was cutting-edge. As early as the 1980s, she was onto something innovative. The idea was that people who shared similar disorders could help each other.

Solomon researched peer-provided services in the early 1980s and throughout the 1990s, but her findings were overlooked. At the time, peer-provided care, such as people with severe psychiatric disorders offering support and advice to others with similar conditions, was not well-accepted because it was contrary to widely held beliefs.

“Little by little, things have changed,” Solomon, who has been at Penn since 1994, said. 

Solomon’s research is referenced more today than when it was originally published.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Solomon studied the mental health needs of the homeless, as well as the intersection of criminal justice and mental health. Today, these are some of field’s hottest research areas.

“Over the years, what I’ve seen in social work research is … that it’s changed.  It’s far more rigorous and far more accepted than it was,” Solomon said. “I’ve seen changes to the profession itself. There’s been an increase in the stature of social work research and others outside the profession are seeing that social workers have a great deal to contribute, in terms of new knowledge in areas with some of the most vulnerable clients.”

Solomon earned her Ph.D. in social welfare and master’s degree in sociology from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. She spent five years working in the Ohio state psychiatric system.

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