Adriana Gonzalez was raised in National City in a community that she describes as “rough”. Throughout the 90’s, the neighborhood experienced high gang activity which made even walking to school difficult. She became interested in the field of social work after hearing about it at career fair in high school. At Southwestern college she enjoyed her psychology and sociology courses, and realized that working in a helping profession really appealed to her. After taking some courses at Cal State Los Angeles, Adriana decided to transfer to SDSU to pursue her BSW. Her favorite courses were Motivational Interviewing with Dr. Hohman and Consensus Organizing with Professor Eichler. Adriana was a first generation college student and she had never thought about attending graduate school. However, through the mentorship and support from her participation in the Price Community Builders Program through the Consensus Organizing Center, she was able to identify graduate school as her goal, work towards it and secure funding. She was part of the first ever Advanced Standing MSW cohort at SDSU. Through her MSW program, Adriana felt very connected to SDSU as she spent a lot of time on campus, learning and bonding with others in her cohort.
Although she had a concentration in Social Work Administration, Adriana has worked in clinical roles since graduating with her MSW. She was hired at Jewish Family Service of San Diego a year after completing her MSW internship with the agency. She found that the administration curriculum gave her a good skill set and made her a stronger clinician. She says that it is hard to supervise people without having a clinical background, and that her coursework gave her the ability to be an advocate for administrative changes when possible.
Currently, Adriana works at UCSD as a medical social worker in the Mother-Child-Adolescent Program. She works with an interdisciplinary team of social workers, physicians, nurses, and psychiatrists to engage HIV positive patients in their medical care. The goal of the program is to form a therapeutic relationship in order to keep patients engaged in their care, and to identify any barriers to treatment and provide resources to help address those barriers. HIV can be managed when patients take their medication every day, but Adriana’s work can be challenging due to the stigma attached to the disease. Many patients can isolate themselves and be distrustful. Adriana recalls one patient who was disengaged for three years, and says it was difficult to witness the patient’s health decline over time. However, one day the patient agreed to see the doctor and Adriana walked to the office with her, realizing that her hard work had paid off. She was happy to see the patient engage in treatment, and she felt privileged to be supportive and encouraging along the way.
In the future, Adriana hopes to earn her LCSW. She really enjoys her work at UCSD because she is able to empower her patients. She hopes to do more education for the greater community, as we all have the power to shift the stigma associated with HIV and better the lives of those living with the disease. Adriana is happy to work in such a compassionate, empathetic field. She had a baby last year, and she is grateful for the flexibility of part time, contract, and per diem options to support her work/life balance. Her advice to future social workers is to practice self-care. She emphasizes that this work can be heavy, and it is important to find a balance and a support system.
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Written by Kelly Reilly