Historical threads in the development of oncology social work

Patricia Fobair, Naomi Noni Stearns, Grace Christ, Deborah Dozier-Hall, Nancy W. Newman, James Zabora, Hester Hill Schnipper, Vicki Kennedy, Matthew Loscalzo, Susan M. Stensland, Susan Hedlund, Marie M. Lauria, Michael Fife, Joyce Herschl, Carol P. Marcusen, Virginia Vaitones, Karlynn Brintzenhofeszoc, Katherine Walsh, Kimberly Lawson, Marcia Desonier

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


As the Association of Oncology Social Work celebrates its 25th year, we pause to reflect on the many historical threads that contributed to its development and hear from each of the presidents who helped create the organization, as we know it today. Set within hospitals, medical social work was born in the early 20th century. In the 1940s medical social work became necessary for hospital accreditation. Two additional historical shifts, one in medical improvements in treating cancer, the other a shift to a consumer-oriented American Cancer Society, contributed to the push for a greater role for the federal government in funding cancer research. Oncology social work came to full blossom in the 1970s, a result of the physicians' need for a member of the health care team who understood cancer, its treatment, and the patient's need to address his or her psychosocial needs resulting from cancer. Today, oncology social work is a fully developed profession with a national organization providing education and support to oncology social workers' in their use of psychosocial interventions and research in behalf of cancer patients and their families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-215
Number of pages61
JournalJournal of Psychosocial Oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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