Honoring 100 for the 100th: Martha Holmes

Martha Kendall Holmes received an MSW from the University of Oklahoma’s School of Social Work in 1976. Ms. Holmes’ life work was in perinatal social work. While working on the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) at Children’s Hospital of Oklahoma, she joined with twelve other social workers from across the country to form the National Association of Perinatal Social Workers (NAPSW) in 1977. These leaders were the primary developers of the specialty of perinatal social work, writing standards for social work practice in NICUs and in obstetrical care. Major networks of support and education were set up to assist new perinatal social workers as they launched careers. Ms. Holmes was elected the first secretary of NAPSW and later chaired the National Nominating Committee. In 1986 and 1996 she was presented awards for outstanding service to NAPSW.

Holmes was an Adjunct Professor for the School of Social Work and Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC), where she directed the Oklahoma Infant Transition Program. In 1986, Ms. Holmes began working with Heidelise Als, Ph.D. of Harvard Medical School, to bring developmentally supportive family-centered care to Oklahoma infants who were born prematurely. In 1987 the Sooner NIPCAP Training Center was instituted at the OUSHC, and Ms. Holmes was named as co-director. This was the first center outside of Dr. Als’ own center in Boston. With 14 centers in the US and Europe, the NIDCAP approach to caring for infants and their families is state of the art. Ms. Holmes’ leadership and support was significant to numerous training centers across the country.

Ms. Holmes was an active member of NASW throughout her career. She chaired the National Committee on Nominations and Leadership Identification in 1996-1997. As past president of NASW-OK, Ms. Holmes was Oklahoma’s Social Worker of the Year for 1998, and honored as National Social Worker of the Year for 1999. She served as Executive Director of the Oklahoma Chapter of NASW until her death in 2011. In recognition of her outstanding contributions to the profession, Ms. Holmes has been honored as an NASW Pioneer.

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