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March is Social Work Month!

Meet the Duke-UNC TTS Training Program’s Social Work Team

Whether it’s helping patients access community resources for tobacco cessation, providing behavioral counseling, leading tobacco treatment programs, or advocating at the state level for anti-tobacco policies, behavioral health providers are an integral part of any tobacco treatment team. The Duke-UNC Tobacco Treatment Specialist Training Program team includes several talented licensed clinical social workers (LCSW), who share their expertise in a variety of ways.

In honor of national Social Work Month in March, we wanted to highlight the great work they do as part of the Duke-UNC TTS team. A few of our social work colleagues shared how they use their training as Tobacco Treatment Specialists to help people in a myriad of settings with tobacco cessation.

Jillian Dirkes, MSW, LCSW

As a social worker, I take a person-in-environment approach to this work, meaning I consider the individual factors that impact tobacco use as well as the environment the person is in and the systems they need to navigate. In my clinical operations work, I try to make sure our program has fewer barriers to care and that the program addresses individual and environmental drivers of tobacco use.

> Jillian is one of the Co-Directors and Founders of the Duke-UNC TTS Training Program and helped create the foundational behavioral treatment sections for the course. She is also the Program Manager for the Duke Smoking Cessation Program, overseeing the clinical operations of a practice that treats more than 1,500 patients each year.


Stephanie Gans, LCAS, MSW, NCTTP

I consider myself to be a patient advocate. When I was a clinical social worker it did take some serious patient advocacy to help clients access treatment. Now that I work in public health, I consider it my job to close those gaps so that social workers don’t have to do so much patient advocacy and so that the patients can access treatment themselves.

> Stephanie is a LCSW and Tobacco Treatment Specialist with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. She moderates some of the TTS content related to tobacco control and advocacy on a state and community level.


Megan Keith, MSW, LCSW

I chose social work as a profession because I love helping people. As a tobacco treatment specialist with the Duke Smoking Cessation Program, I have the privilege of helping patients who are experiencing cancer screening, diagnosis, or treatment achieve their goals of stopping or reducing tobacco use. Helping people stop using tobacco is personal for me, as I grew up on a tobacco farm and have seen firsthand how powerful nicotine addiction can be.

> Megan provides behavioral counseling to patients as a Tobacco Treatment Specialist with the Duke Smoking Cessation Program and helps moderate the Motivational Interviewing session for the TTS training program.


Ellen Ruebush, MSW, LCSW, LCAS

"I use a lot of motivational interviewing and behavioral therapy to support my patients in their journey to become tobacco-free. My social work training also helps me see my patients through a broader lens, taking into account my patients' environment and the external factors that impact them and impact their tobacco use.

> Ellen is a Clinical Team Lead for the Tobacco Treatment Program at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. She leads the Cancer Center breakout group during TTS, in which participants are separated by their setting and get to discuss how to create/improve their program. She also participates in the Motivational Interviewing breakout session.



As a LCSW, my work is very patient-centered and comes with the understanding that there is a continuum of readiness to change, which is helpful in providing tobacco treatment counseling. My training has taught me about substance use and the importance of looking at the bio-psycho-social-spiritual model when working with patients. Additionally, I use different modalities that I have learned as a LCSW, such as Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) when providing tobacco treatment.

> Susan is a Certified Tobacco Treatment Counselor and Associate Director for the UNC Tobacco Treatment Program. As one of the primary teaching faculty for the TTS Trainings, Susan is involved with both teaching sections of the course and facilitating breakout sessions. Her teaching areas of focus are typically on the psychological and behavioral components related to tobacco treatment, as well as program development and implementation.


Andrea Pratt, MSW, LCSW

I enjoy helping patients make new connections between their tobacco dependence, mental health, stress management, and habit loops. For most of my patients, quitting or cutting down their tobacco use is a process that involves small steps, exploring, and trying new interventions mixed with compassion along the way.

> Andrea provides behavioral counseling to patients as a Tobacco Treatment Specialist with the Duke Smoking Cessation Program. She moderates the Motivational Interviewing session for TTS and serves on the marketing committee.


The Duke-UNC TTS Training Program hosts both comprehensive TTS training and 1-day intensive CME trainings for professionals across the spectrum of healthcare. To learn more or register for a training, visit our website. Or reach out to our program coordinator Jennifer Greyber at or 919-668-5042.


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