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Looking Back: 2012 AVASW New Leadership

Melissa Turner


Leader 2012

Washington, DC

I am a clinical social worker specializing in care and treatment of veterans living with HIV/AIDS. The ID Clinic at the Washington VA Medical Center serves as the administrative-hub for nearly 200 HIV clinical research sites in the United States and internationally and in addition to direct service, my role in the clinic has been to serve as an expert consultant on patient-related issues for scientists and researchers designing HIV treatment, prevention and behavioral intervention studies. I act as liaison between research volunteers, local and national community advisory boards, health departments, scientists, researchers and key stakeholders within the VA and the National Institutes of Health on pro-grams of national and international significance. I focus on building community support, community engagement, establishing key coalitions and strategic inter-agency partnerships for HIV research projects. As a new officer in the Association of VA Social Workers, I am interested in formally collaborating with other social workers on strategies to raise the profile of our contribution as clinical social workers in the Department of Veterans Affairs. In the United States, the VA is the largest, single employer of master's degreed social workers. We provide a variety of services to veterans and their families and make a difference every day throughout the Veterans Health Administration. I would like to explore ways in which the Association of VA Social Workers can be a vehicle for increased recognition of the social worker's role in VA and a training ground for future social work leaders.

Laurel Shaler

Member-at-large, Staff 2012

Greenville, SC

Laurel Shaler is a Licensed Independent Social Worker. She works for the Dorn VA Medical Center Greenville Outpatient Clinic in Greenville, SC as a Mental Health Social Worker. Laurel received her MSW from Florida State University and her PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision from Regent University. She is a Cognitive Processing Therapy provider and adjunct faculty for the University of South Carolina. Laurel enjoys writing and presenting at conferences, including local, state, and national chapters of social work and counseling organizations. Her husband, Nicholas, is a Supply Officer in the United States Navy.

LeAnn Bruce

President—Elect 2012

Ft. Knox, KY

Allow me to introduce myself. As the VA Liaison for Healthcare assigned to the Military Treatment Facility at Fort Knox, KY, it is my hon-or to be embedded within the Warrior Transition Battalion to assist returning Service members as they prepare to leave military service. This unique position has provided an opportunity to view the VHA from a wide lens as I work with Medical Centers across the nation to coordinate healthcare between the two systems of care. In so doing, I have become aware of many of the strengths and challenges across the VA system, especially regarding the process of transitioning our “Veterans -in-Transition.” Through these transitions, and work on several committees, I have come in contact with so many dedicated and professional Social Workers throughout the VA. I believe that social work is the thread that is woven through every program and service of the VA providing the richness and strength that enhances effectiveness and the client-centered paradigm. I have developed a great sense of respect and pride in the diversity and scope of the role that social work plays across the VA healthcare system and am proud to be a part of it! I am currently working on my dissertation for my Ph.D at the University of Louisville School of Social Work. My interest is in the spiritual-existential transformation of the following combat/deployment (short version). I am also a member of the National Social Work Committee for Evidence-Based Practice and Research. I am looking forward to serving as your Vice President for the coming term and am looking forward to contributing to doing my part to fulfill the mission of AVASW.

Marilynn Mastrella



Marilynn Mastrella is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has worked in the mental health field for 26 years. Her tenure at the VA began almost three years ago in Family Support Services. She has been a Coordinator of HUD-VASH and is currently transitioning to a GPD Liaison. While at the VA, she has authored two articles; the first was published in the VA Advantage and the second in the AVASW Newsletter. Within the VA, she serves on the Recovery Transformation Team (RTT) and the Education Committee of the RTT. She has also served on the Orientation Mentor Workgroup, the Literature and Medicine Planning Group, and the Social Work MSW Intern Essay Committee. Marilynn has attained both the ACSW and the BCD. Currently she is working on certification as a VA Coach/Mentor and is in training for the Alternate Dispute Mediation Mediator. In her community, she has served on the Board of Directors for the Evergreen Cemetery Association for over twelve years. She has been a member of the local Parent Teacher As-sociation for over nine years and has held many positions. She is a current member of NASW. She has been awarded a Service Award from both the NJ Occupational Therapy Association and the Warren County Human Relations Commission. Since 1998, she has been a New York University Champions Mentor. Thank you for the opportunity to broaden my service to VA Social Workers. I am looking forward to serving as Secretary for the AVASW.

Juliana Laurenzi


Retired 2012

Middletown, NY

Julie Laurenzi completed her VA Social Work Internship in 1987 and was hired by the Albany VAMC in 1989. She worked there until 2007 when she transferred to the Mid-Hudson Valley HCS (Montrose and Castle Point) until her retirement in 2009. As many VA Social Workers do, she worked in all areas of healthcare including medical, behavioral health and geriatrics in both outpatient and inpatient settings during her career. She served on Executive and Advisory Committees at both the Albany the Montrose VAMC’s. For many years she was the Coordinator of the Healthcare for Homeless Veterans Program in Albany and when she moved to Montrose, she was the Director of the OEF/OIF Program. She saw many system design changes in the VA through the years and worked very hard to encourage and empower social workers to be leaders, to be creative and to use the positive tools of the social work profession within the VA System. She served on the SW Data Management and Evaluation Committee and eventually on the Social Work Executive Committee. She Co-Directed the Social Work Internship Program at the Albany VA from 1990-2007 working closely with the University at New York. She was an adjunct professor at the University at Albany and was active in NASW. For many years she chaired the Professional Advisory Board for the Epilepsy Foundation of NENY and still serves as an informal adviser to them.

After her retirement she took two years to transition to her new role of grandmother to a growing family and to deal with some health care issues. She continues to informally mentor young social workers who seek her advice and support. She has been a member of AVASW for many years. Her love of the profession brought her back to participate more actively within AVASW.

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