Joshua Brewster2018 Rising Alumni

Joshua Brewster

Joshua Brewster has a master’s in social work and master’s in healthcare administration from U of M, and is the director of Social Work and Spiritual Care at Michigan Medicine, the academic hospital at the University of Michigan. He oversees 300+ social workers addressing the needs of patients and families. Additionally, Josh has an appointment and responsibilities with the School of Social Work building interdisciplinary collaborations and trainings at Michigan Medicine and with partners in Western Uganda. Despite working for our rival Wolverines, Josh continues to consult for his alma mater, assisting the School of Social Work to develop a concentration in health, disability and aging. Josh remembers calling the U of M during his admissions process from a communist-era phone booth in Bulgaria, where he was serving in the Peace Corps.


Director of Social Work and Spiritual Care; Adjunct Assistant Professor
Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan

CEHD Degree

MSW 2003
MHA 2010

Please list any professional accomplishments you wish to mention.

  • Working with many great social workers to address the needs of patients and families in various healthcare settings.
  • Helping to promote the importance of social workers in healthcare.
  • Leading amazing teams of social workers in several healthcare organizations.

Please list any past or current volunteer activities.

  • Board member (current and previous): Canvas Health, Oakdale, MN
  • Hope House, Stillwater, MN
  • University of Iowa Home Care
  • Iowa City Hospice
  • Fostering rescue dogs
  • Mentoring rising healthcare leaders

What professor(s) or course(s) were most influential during your time in CEHD?

  • Megan Morrissey - historical perspectives of social work
  • Priscilla Gibson - clinical skills (individual and group)
  • Linda Jones – policy; Marilyn Luptak – aging
  • Sonia Davila-Williams – field

What was the impact and benefit of your educational experience in CEHD?

  • Strong foundation in practice, ethics, policy, and leadership in social work
  • great professional connections; problem-solving through the lens of social justice
  • understanding of oppression, power, and diversity
  • small and intimate learning environment, but large enough to have opportunities

What is your favorite memory from the University of Minnesota?

Incredible discussions in the classroom and outside of the classroom about social justice.

Who has inspired you the most during your career?

Patients/clients who have overcome tremendous obstacles in life.

What skills are important to succeed as an emerging professional today?

Understanding/skills in evidence-based practice; ethical practice; macro- practice skills (from leadership to policy); patience and humor; passion to make a difference, even if you feel alone or underappreciated.

What are your hobbies?

Spending time with my wife and our two dogs walking through the woods discussing the day's political news.

What's a good book you'd recommend to others?

Getting Things Done by David Allen. We have so much to do every day and time is valuable, we have to be efficient.

If you could have coffee with anyone from history, who would it be?

Teddy Roosevelt and/or Jane Addams.

What gets you excited about work?

Finding ways to bring social work services to more patients/clients and translating between social work and the business side of healthcare.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An airline pilot.

Outside of your job, how do you grow professionally?

Reading journals and books about healthcare trends, leadership, social entrepreneurship, healthcare social work, policy, and biographies of great leaders; conferences/trainings about healthcare and social work.

What is a "fun fact" about you?

I had never been to Minnesota before being accepted to the School of Social Work. I applied from Bulgaria – I remember calling with about some question and talking to Megan Morrissey, I was calling from an old communist-era phone booth.