Dr. Hugh Drouin

Recipient: February 2003

Viewed by his peers as a leader within the social work profession, Dr. Hugh Drouin was recently interviewed in honour of Social Work Week, the theme of which is "Social Work: A Unique Profession". Having spent the last 30 years as a social worker, Hugh says that he has experienced the maturing of the social work profession. Since his graduation with a BSW from the University of Windsor in 1973, to which he added an MSW in 1976 and a Ph.D. in social work in 1994, he has seen the anchoring of social work in legislation, the professional association becoming stronger than ever, and the growth of social work into a very well respected and accepted profession.

Hugh noted that when he first became involved, social work was restricted to very traditional areas such as child welfare, family services, and the like, but now social workers are involved in so many areas of practice, both at the public and private levels. The field has experienced amazing growth in these three decades.

Dr. Hugh Drouin is confident that the future of social work looks bright if social workers market their skills. Social work skills are essentially people skills and he believes that people skills will be in increasing demand in the future. He stressed that intrinsic to social work is the ability to work with teams, to support people to work together. He pointed out that social workers are breaking into new areas all over, noting as an example, that the Chief Administrative Officer of Durham Region, Garry Cubbitt, is a social worker.

Hugh will have the opportunity of working with Mr. Cubbitt when he leaves his position as the Executive Director of Family Service Ontario at the end of March 2003 to take the position of Commissioner of the Social Services Department of the Regional Municipality of Durham. After 16 years in family services, at both the provincial and local levels, he feels that the time has come to seek new adventures.

Dr. Hugh Drouin emphasized that the challenge for the social work profession is to solidify its image. He believes that the responsibility rests with educators and senior members of the profession to take on this challenge. He sees the growth in social work doctoral programs across Canada as a positive step forward.

According to Hugh, the essential element of a professional leader is a focus on serving others and creating a climate where individuals can grow in professionally and personally. He believes that the skill to listen, not an easy skill to master, is essential for social workers in general and for leaders in particular. He also places importance on empathy, tolerance for imperfection, and the promotion of healing. He emphasized that when you become a leader, you don't stop being a social worker, and the skills that make a good social worker are also the skills that make a good leader. He believes that a leader must have a commitment to the growth of people. As well, a leader must be committed to building a community, by creating a space where people can grow, feel a sense of connection, as well as trust and compassion.

Of the greatest challenges for the profession, Dr. Hugh Drouin cited increasing competition with other professions, forcing social work to enhance its focus and keep growing. The reality is that social work is one of many professions in the healing area, and it is a continuing challenge to define the different skill sets and specialty areas of these professions.

Hugh emphasized that it is essential for senior social workers to act as spokespersons for the profession and to transfer and communicate their passion for their profession to students. He called on schools of social work to keep their faculty fresh and thriving by finding ways to bring in social workers who have a wealth of experience in the field to teach and inspire students. He personally has had the opportunity to observe students close-hand by teaching at McMaster University for the past five years on the social aspects of health and illness. He pronounced it a remarkable experience.

When asked how he has maintained his passion for the profession, Dr. Hugh Drouin stressed that he is firmly committed to continuous learning. This takes the form of taking courses, sitting on various boards (including professional bodies and educational institutions), and experiencing the world outside of immediate practice. He stated that, sometimes, one can be more appreciated outside social work circles than within the profession, and it is important to get this external input. He urged social workers to stimulate their passion by pursuing learning experiences where, inevitably, their skills and background will be appreciated. He underscored the fact that the more one gives to the profession, the more one receives in return. Hugh also highlighted the role of his family and personal faith in stimulating his enthusiasm for his work and in providing the necessary anchors to his life.

Dr. Hugh Drouin is a social work leader - committed, compassionate and inspiring. Celebrate the unique profession of social work during Social Work Week, March 3-9, 2003, and throughout the year.