As a young adult, Dr. Maurya Glaude began working for the federal government, helping to connect disabled individuals and seniors with much-needed financial assistance. But although Dr. Glaude valued her contribution, she realized that something was missing. Despite her efforts, many of her clients remained isolated, and the inequalities in their lives persisted. That was when Dr. Glaude discovered the holistic approach to compassionate care that would define much of her career in social work.
“I realized that, yes, we can provide financial assistance,” Dr. Glaude explains. “But we were only giving a part of what the individual needed.” What was missing, she believes, was a sense of “wholeness”: a vision of the individual as a whole person, with financial as well as emotional, physical, social, and community-based needs.
A master’s program in social work, she reasoned, would be a place to put together all the pieces of the “wholeness” puzzle. “I wanted to learn the skills to fill in the gaps, via one-on-one micro-level services as well as programs and policies that brought the whole picture together for the most vulnerable among us.”
Pursuing Social Work as a Career
It was in an abnormal psychology class, as a psychology major at Texas Southern University that Dr. Glaude discovered one piece of her own “wholeness”–a longing to pursue social work as a career. She learned with fascination that there was a profession where she could provide care for vulnerable populations affected by trauma, poverty, and other high-stress circumstances. Dr. Glaude was immediately drawn to the social justice and advocacy components of the position.
Seven years after her initial spark of curiosity, Dr. Glaude followed that instinct and moved to New Orleans to pursue her MSW at the Tulane School of Social Work. She credits the program with helping her to develop the assessment skills that later allowed her to direct social service programs that drew from the existing resources within a community. The most successful community-based programs, she learned, build on partnerships with local industries and mobilize existing assets and resources to sustain a community for years to come.
Concentrating on a Holistic Care Approach
Just eight months after graduation, Dr. Glaude put those skills to direct use by providing door-to-door brief mental health services after Hurricane Katrina. Throughout St. Charles and the greater New Orleans area, Dr. Glaude also implemented her newfound skills in matching short-term needs, such as furniture and toiletries, with long-term goals through case management. As always, even in the midst of environmental trauma, she looked at the bigger picture of what would help individuals and communities maintain sustained success. Rather than tending simply to individuals’ material needs, Dr. Glaude was able to concentrate on their whole selves. But it was her Tulane field practicum at Catholic Charities, where she was subsequently hired, that stirred one of Dr. Glaude’s most persistent clinical passions: working with adolescents. Dr. Glaude discovered a natural affinity for working with youth who are managing high-stress situations and navigating the transition from childhood to adulthood. After earning her master’s degree, she managed 14 adult social service programs and developed a number of initiatives aimed at strengthening and educating children and youth.
That extensive practical experience informed Dr. Glaude’s decision to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Houston. In working with a cluster of young adolescent women who were experiencing intimate partner violence, she noticed a problem. The available diagnostic and treatment tools were designed for older populations, not teens.
Maximizing Opportunities with a Holistic Care Approach
Dr. Glaude’s persistent desire to bridge gaps and address disparities when she sees them led her to research intimate partner violence, mental health, and substance use among adolescents in her doctoral program. The studies she conducted “complemented the skills I learned in my master’s program,” she explains, “and allowed me to have both research-informed practice and practice-informed research.” Her students at Tulane appreciate that she can bring in real-life examples of how practice might inform a research question or project.
Dr. Glaude’s current work draws from her rich background as both a hands-on practitioner in community-based programs and community-engaged researcher. Her research this spring will look at health disparities among black and Hispanic women in the New Orleans area and their knowledge of PrEP. Meanwhile, in the fall, she’s partnering with Lyrica Baroque’s The Power of Language, a program that teaches classical music to help children learn to de-escalate and manage stress when they’re in crisis using both music and journaling. As always, Dr. Glaude is interested in involving communities directly in programmatic change, so holistic paradigm shifts can occur from the inside out. “And in turn,” she wonders, “how can this influence policy, so as to increase opportunities for success among youth?”
Indeed, just as she first discovered in the early years of her career, Dr. Glaude is most interested in maximizing opportunities for wholeness and health—not only for the individual, but for communities at large. “Being a woman of color with a bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degree, I have great responsibility and privilege that I need to use to mobilize and bring resources to communities. I use my privilege and my resources to bring opportunities to communities that would not otherwise have access to those resources,” she explains. She encourages her students to use their own privilege to be in union and solidarity with the communities they serve.
“So that everyone has an opportunity,” concludes Dr Glaude. “So that humankind has an opportunity.”