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Wittman, Milton

in: People

 Milton Wittman (1915 – 1994): Psychiatric Social Worker and Long Time Chief of the Social Work Training Program

at the National Institute of Mental Health


Dr. Milton Wittman, Psychiatric Social Worker
Dr. Milton Wittman, Psychiatric Social Worker
Photo: NASW Foundation

Milton Wittman was a social work administrator, an author, and an advocate for prevention. He was nationally recognized for his outstanding contributions to the field of mental health and the development of social work education. His leadership of the social work training program at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) spanned 32 years. With each decade, he broadened the scope and objectives for social work education and added new dimensions to the program.

Wittman came to NIMH in 1947 as a social work training specialist and developed the psychiatric social work training programs needed to staff the mental health programs enacted by the National Mental Health Act of 1946. During his NIMH career, he advocated for educational resources and practice methods that would permit mental health services to become more widely available.

In the 1960’s, Wittman was appointed Chairman of the federal Task Force on Social Work Education and Manpower. The task force report, Closing the Gap in Social Work Manpower, resulted in funding of social work education for welfare programs. Wittman also focused on educational programs to increase minority mental health manpower.

In 1977, Wittman was named social work’s first Professional Liaison Officer in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, giving a new level of visibility to social work in PHS. His work there solidified standards among social workers in diverse public health programs.

He has held many leadership roles in professional organizations. The NASW Knee/Wittman Health/Mental Health Achievement awards were created to honor Milton Wittman and Ruth Knee for their contributions to the field and their standards of excellence.

Born in New York City, Wittman received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Nebraska; his master of arts degree in 1939 from the School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago; and his doctor of social work degree in 1956 from Columbia University. He also spent a postdoctoral year at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Source: NASW Foundation, Social Work Pioneers: