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Linda Loan Pham

M.S.W. Class of 2010

I have wanted to work in the social service field since college, when I decided not to major in any hard science fields, despite the expectation and wish of my family. This was a major disappointment for them and struggle for me, as I straddled the line of wanting to be successful in their eyes and doing work that I was passionate about.

Prior to coming to Smith College School for Social Work I had worked in many different social services settings on a macro level and knew that I wanted to practice social work on a clinical level. After some research and encouragement from directors at the agency I was working for, I found Smith. I was attracted by both the focus on clinical work and the block plan internship. Since I had never been outside of California, the myriad of national field placements was especially appealing. I had some reservations about going to a private institution due to costs, but I was fortunate to be a recipient of the School's scholarship fund, which helped ease this anxiety.

During my first placement, I was in Seattle at the Asian Counseling and Referral Service working with adults in an outpatient behavioral mental health setting. This was the first time I ever worked with adults or even did work in another language besides English (Vietnamese). It was a challenge to incorporate the westernized theoretical approaches I had learned in my first summer in this culturally diverse setting. However, I had great support from my faculty field advisor and supervisor and gained valuable insight about applying psychodynamic theory in a very culturally appropriate and sensitive manner.

When I decided to attend Smith, I knew that I wanted to specialize in medical social work. The school has wonderful connections to agencies around the U.S., and I was placed in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins Children Center Pediatric Oncology Unit for my second placement. I worked in a multi-disciplinary team of doctors, nurses, social workers, and other specialized department professionals.

Hands down, this was the most rewarding, challenging, and life changing experience I have ever had. As a teaching hospital, Hopkins was invested in their students and provided us with wonderful opportunities to attend conferences, seminars, training, and shadowing opportunities. The experience working with children, families and staff there has ultimately allowed me to reflect more deeply on my role as a clinician. I was fortunate to have had a dynamic team that I was able to confer with and seek support from and my faculty field advisor helped ground me in the Smith framework when I needed it most.

I treasure the richness and diversity of experience I have gained from my time here and I do not think I would have received this experience anywhere else. It was not just the schoolwork and internships that were phenomenal, but the wonderful and awe inspiring individuals I have encountered throughout my time at Smith that have been nothing short of exceptional. I feel incredibly well-prepared to pursue clinical social work practice after graduation and I can strongly recommend this program if one desires to be personally and professionally challenged.