Before he retired in 2015, Irwin Epstein occupied the Helen Rehr Chair in Applied Social Work Research (Health & Mental Health) at where he taught research courses and supervised DSW and PhD dissertation research studies in the Doctoral Program in Social Welfare at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and the MSW Program at the Silberman School of Social Work. At the Master’s level he loved teaching courses students didn’t want to take but came to love.
At the doctoral level, he loved helping students channel their research passions into research knowledge development mentoring them into successful and gratifying academic and administrative careers.
As an adjunct professor for 25 years in the Community Medicine Department at the Mount Sinai Medical Center and in their International Enhancement of Leadership program. He loved “converting” local and international practitioners who did not think of themselves as researchers into true and unrepentant “practitioner- researchers”.
His work was a labor of love.
At the start of his 50 year career, he taught at the University of Michigan for 13 years, during which time he was named a Senior Fulbright scholar at the University of Wales (Cardiff) and did a sabbatical at the University of Warwick (Coventry) in the UK. After joining the Faculty at Hunter College School of Social Work he did sabbaticals teaching in the PhD Program at Howard University (A Historically-Black University) in Washington, D.C. where he also helped develop a new MSW Program in Social Work with Displaced Populations. A subsequent sabbatical was spent at Holy Cross Children’s Service of Michigan where he Chaired a National Research Advisory Committee and helped construct a computerized clinical information system to promote data-based interventions as well as applied research studies.
As a trainer, he has conducted practitioner research and evaluation workshops at universities and social agencies in Australia, Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States. In addition to his training and consulting work abroad, he has served as an on-going research and evaluation consultant and practitioner-research facilitator to the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, Jewish Board of Children’s and Family Services. For his work in Australia, he was the first social worker to receive the Miegunyah Distinguished Visiting Professor Award from the University of Melbourne.
In 2014, just prior to his retirement, he hosted the 4th International Conference on Practice Research at the Silberman School of Social Work, co-sponsored by Mount Sinai Department of Social Work Services.
In a career devoted to practice-research integration, he is an author, co-author and co-editor of several books, special journal issues and numerous articles on social worker professionalization, program evaluation, computerized information system development and implementation, research utilization and practice-based research (PBR). Having introduced this latter concept into the social work literature, spent the last two decades of his career exploring the potential of “clinical data-mining” (CDM) as a PBR methodology. CDM is a practice-research integration strategy whereby practitioners learn to conceptualize, analyze and interpret their own routinely collected clinical data to improve their practice and contribute to knowledge.
His CDM publications include: Clinical Data-Mining in Practice-Based Research: Social Work in Hospital Settings, co-edited with Susan Blumenfield in 2001 and Clinical and Research Uses of an Adolescent Intake Questionnaire: What Kids Need to Talk About, co-edited with Ken Peake and Daniel Medeiros in 2004. Another collection of CDM papers co-edited with Lynette Joubert, is based on multi-disciplinary data-mining studies conducted by Australian social workers and allied health practitioners was published as a special issue of the Journal of Social Work Research and Evaluation in 2005.
His book entitled Clinical Data-mining: Integrating Practice and Research, was published in 2010 by Oxford University Press in their Social Work Research Methods Handbook Series. A new CDM collection co-edited with Ros Giles and Anne Vertigan is entitled Clinical Data-Mining in an Allied Health Organization: A Real World Experience was published by the University of Sydney Press in 2011. His most recent publications are the Foreword to and penultimate chapter entitled “Whence and whither clinical data mining?” in The Routledge Handbook of Social Work Practice Research, co-edited by Lynette Joubert and Martin Webber in 2020.