ShareThis Page
North Hills

Shaler man honored for commitment to social work

| Monday, Oct. 24, 2016, 4:57 p.m.
Larry Davis (left) dean of the Pitt School of Social Work, presenting the 2016 Outstanding Alumni Award to Rod Rutkowski of Shaler, who has been a social worker at UPMC St. Margaret for nearly 35 years.
Submitted
Larry Davis (left) dean of the Pitt School of Social Work, presenting the 2016 Outstanding Alumni Award to Rod Rutkowski of Shaler, who has been a social worker at UPMC St. Margaret for nearly 35 years.
Rod Rutkowski, a Shaler graduate, at a luncheon on Oct. 5, 2016, where he received the 2016 Outstanding Alumni award from the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work.
Submitted
Rod Rutkowski, a Shaler graduate, at a luncheon on Oct. 5, 2016, where he received the 2016 Outstanding Alumni award from the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work.

Rod Rutkowski doesn't want praise for the work he does at UPMC St. Margaret, but his colleagues wanted to recognize him for his tireless commitment to medical social work.

“It's just that I believe in being able to help others,” Rutkowski said. “Being a social worker is not what I do, it's who I am.”

Rutkowski, director of health management at UPMC St. Margaret, was awarded the 2016 Outstanding Alumni Award from the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work at the alumni luncheon and reception on Oct. 5.

The award recognizes alumni who use their social work degrees to bring excellence to their professional achievements and community service involvement and who have helped to advance the university's mission and goals.

Rutkowski originally is from Erie but settled in Shaler about 30 years ago. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in social work from Pit and has worked at St. Margaret for 35 years: 23 years as a social worker, 10 as manager of social work and the last two as director of health management.

Medical social workers work with patients and their families to help them adjust to hospitalization or chronic illness and connect them with resources and programs. Rutkowski started his career in the field as a social worker, but now oversees social work, care management and community health programs for St. Margaret.

“My whole career I wouldn't think of doing anything else,” Rutkowski said. “It's very satisfying to me because nobody knows what's going to happen for them in life when they experience emergencies. It's good to have somebody to be there to help you and be a resource and guide you through some difficult times.”

Bobby Simmons, a faculty member at Pitt's School of Social Work and director of the Vankirk Career Center, said Rutkowski began a shadowing program several years ago that allows students from the School of Social Work to follow one of his social workers for a day.

“He really is a true social worker. He walks it, he talks it and it's all over him,” Simmons said.

UPMC St. Margaret officials highlighted one situation in particular this year in Rutkowski's nomination letter.

This past summer a long-distance truck driver traveling with his 9-year-old son was struck by intense leg pain that forced him to stop at the nearest hospital, which happened to be St. Margaret, said Denise Abernathy, clinical director of emergency services, care management and social work at UPMC St. Margaret.

A serious infection was discovered in one of the father's legs and required hospitalization, but his son would not be able to stay at the hospital during treatment. The father, concerned his son may be put in an emergency shelter or foster care, considered refusing treatment, Abernathy said.

Hearing the situation, Rutkowski located the child's aunt in Oklahoma City and was able to fly her to Pittsburgh, then fly the pair back to Oklahoma City until the father and son could be reunited. Rutkowski even secured help for the cost of airfare from the St. Margaret Foundation.

“It's those kind of things,” Abernathy said, that make Rutkowski so special. “You don't meet many people like that anymore.”

Abernathy is Rutkowski's direct supervisor and has known him for about a year and a half.

“He knows just who to call to get people the help they need,” she said. “He thinks about everybody else before himself always and he'll work 100 hours a week if he needs to. If there's an issue or concern, he's the first one to jump in and take control.”

Rachel Farkas is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me