Derek Tice-Brown, Ph.D., may be the latest addition to the Graduate School of Social Service (GSS) faculty, but he is no stranger to the Fordham Community. After completing his doctoral studies at GSS and working as an assistant dean in the program, he now returns with syllabi in hand.
Tice-Brown is an accomplished social worker, with nearly two decades of experience in leadership, policy, planning, research, and direct practice. He specializes in the areas of international and domestic HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ health, and homelessness in social service and public health settings. He also focuses on helping marginalized communities cope with the anxiety and depression caused by minority stress – excess stress due to marginalization and discrimination experienced by people who have minority identity.
“One thing that has always pervaded my life is this sense of wanting to support, nurture, and help others,” he said about his career choice.
He seems to be on the right path.
Academic and Athletic Excellence
Before entering the social work field, Tice-Brown completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia, where he studied psychology and Japanese studies. The son of a former professional athlete, Tice-Brown was also a collegiate runner on UVA’s Division I cross country team. He thanks his father for teaching him the value of fortitude, both in sports and in the fight for social justice.
“I started running when I was nine,” he said. “Determination and focus on goals were ingrained in me since I was a small child. My dad was active in the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s and 70s. So, my father positively influenced me, in a way, to carry on his work.”
For two years after graduation from UVA, Tice-Brown worked for inpatient and outpatient children’s mental health hospitals, clinics, and programs. To keep his interests, health and supporting others, a large part of his career, Tice-Brown explored health-related graduate programs. He said the emphasis on social justice provided by Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) curriculums drew him to the field. This led him to get his M.S.W. from the University of Pennsylvania.
“Growing up as a minority person in a majority community, and through some of my experiences, I really felt like the help I wanted to create was something that was needed,” he said. “Social work seemed to be that one profession that united those three different interests — social justice, health, and helping others.”
Professional Experience and Doctoral Studies
For the first few years after completing his M.S.W., Tice-Brown worked primarily in direct practice. However, his positions were “blended,” meaning he managed community programs in the area at the same time. He engaged with primarily queer individuals in need of support of their HIV disease, and counseled those who suffered from diseases like depression and anxiety disorders. His work was essential to the early stages of the LGBTQ mental health field.
Then, his path shifted completely onto community planning. Hired by the City of Philadelphia’s health department, Tice-Brown concentrated heavily on Philadelphia’s development issues surrounding its HIV population.
“The department… supported planning bodies for the City of Philadelphia on how HIV services would be provided in the city and surrounding suburban counties,” he said. “We conducted research that looked at… individual experiences in the system of HIV care, from consumers of that care. Then, we took all the data and used strategic planning principals to help guide the redevelopment of plans already in place for how to address these ongoing and novel issues.”
Tice-Brown appreciated the constant learning environment that surrounded his work. He highlighted the department’s diverse meetings and their positive impact to policy and practice changes as vital career experience. This inspired him to pursue his doctorate degree.
With support from Peter Vaughan, former dean of Fordham GSS and one of Tice-Brown’s associate deans at UPenn, Tice-Brown applied to Fordham for a Ph.D. in Social Work.
“As I got to know a number of the scholars who were working at Fordham, these were people whose research I’d been reading while I was in practice,” he said. “I’d been following them because their interests were similar; I realized that a lot of them were at Fordham.”
Research Interests and Academia
Along with his deanship at GSS, Tice-Brown has held assistant professor positions at both Long Island University and Sacred Heart University. He serves as a New York City Delegate for the National Association of Social Workers’ (NASW) Delegate Assembly, was recognized as a Mid-Career Exemplary Leader by the NASW – N.Y.C. Chapter, and received a Leadership Award from the Latino Social Work Task Force. Along with extensive study, he acknowledges his lived experience as a large factor in his success in the classroom.
“It would be incredibly challenging to teach a course — at least, for me — if I wasn’t able to use examples from my own practice,” he said. “Areas where I’ve made mistakes and learned from them, or areas where I’ve succeeded — sharing those with students is helpful.”
Today, Tice-Brown continues his mission to make mental healthcare more accessible to marginalized communities. Part of his work is dedicated to finding effective and accessible treatments for vulnerable populations, many of whom are impacted by mental health stigma and are worried about the basic necessities of life – food, water, shelter – so they can’t afford therapy, even on a sliding scale.
“Minority communities are marginalized in the first place, and so when they do present with mental health issues, traditional treatments for mental health often times can be out of reach,” he said. “So, my commitment is to, well, what are some of the things we do in everyday life that help us to manage our mental health?”
Over his career, Tice-Brown has seen great strides in the physical treatment of HIV/AIDS. What was once a patient’s nightmare of multiple drugs throughout the day, causing debilitating side effects, has been converted into one pill a day.
However, there is still much room for improvement concerning how the disease disproportionately impacts communities. This progress starts by getting marginalized populations a seat at the treatment table, and making sure they don’t just sit there, but are heard and listened to.
“What hasn’t changed since the beginning [of my career in HIV in the late ‘90s]and what really continues to drive my research is who it [HIV] impacts,” he said. “Minority communities continue to be overwhelmingly disproportionately represented, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that — and I don’t think this was intentional at all — who was around the table in the beginning of the HIV pandemic. People from the majority community made decisions to the best of their knowledge, but because these marginalized groups weren’t included, we see prevention messages aren’t reaching these communities in the same way, or intervention strategies aren’t developed with them in mind.”
Some courses Tice-Brown has taught in the past are “Social Work with Organizations and Communities,” “Social Work Practice with LGBTQI Individuals,” and “Advanced Integrated Practice Evaluation and Research.” He says Fordham University’s commitment to cura personalis – or, “care for the whole person – coupled with GSS’s roots in social justice, resonate well with his teaching.
And in his class, everyone gets a seat at the table, and a voice in the conversation.
“It really helps me to understand that I’m not just someone standing in front of the room, passing along information, but that I’m actually someone who is modeling the knowledge, values, skills, emotional self-regulation abilities to function successfully and effectively in practice,” he said. “I reflect on the best teachers I’ve had – they’ve been smart and knowledgeable, of course, but they’ve also been kind, caring, professional, and supportive. Those are the qualities that I try to embed in the classroom.”