NASW Pioneers Biography Index

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation is pleased to present the NASW Social Work Pioneers®. NASW Pioneers are social workers who have explored new territories and built outposts for human services on many frontiers. Some are well known, while others are less famous outside their immediate colleagues, and the region where they live and work. But each one has made an important contribution to the social work profession, and to social policies through service, teaching, writing, research, program development, administration, or legislation.

The NASW Pioneers have paved the way for thousands of other social workers to contribute to the betterment of the human condition; and they are are role models for future generations of social workers. The NASW Foundation has made every effort to provide accurate Pioneer biographies.  Please contact us at to provide missing information, or to correct inaccurate information. It is very important to us to correctly tell these important stories and preserve our history.  

Please note, an asterisk attached to a name reflects Pioneers who have passed away. All NASW Social Work Pioneers® Bios are Copyright © 2021 National Association of Social Workers Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

Skip Navigation Links
Vicki Shepard, ACSW, MPA
Vicki L. Shepard

Pioneering Contributions 

Vicki Shepard, ACSW, MPA has devoted her career to health, social services and aging and has made contributions on a local, state, and federal level, including serving in political capacities where she has built alliances on both sides of the aisle.  Half of her career has been in government roles and the other half in in the private sector.  In her leadership roles in business, she has championed corporate responsibility, advocated for program and services to address health inequity, and championed legislative action. She received the Monty award from San Diego State in 2021 for her contributions to Social Work. 

She has been a member of NASW since 1974.  She began her commitment to the values of social work as a graduate student at San Diego State University. Shepard has held multiple leadership roles and, in each one, has always referred to herself as a social worker first. She has always considered social work to be her calling, even after she received her second master’s degree in Public Administration. 

Recently Shepard convened a coalition of more than 40 experts on aging representing the public and private sectors, government, non-profit and academia to advocate on aging issues affecting those in rural and underserved communities. Her extensive relationships, built over more than 45 years in social work, enable her to make a difference by bringing people and organizations together around a common goal, regardless of industry sector, geography or political affiliation. 

Career Highlights 

Shepard’s career has included leadership on a local level administering health, aging and community action programs, leading to her selection as a political appointee for the state of California at the Department of Aging.  From there, she moved to serving as a political appointee with the Clinton Administration, working at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at the Administration on Aging.  In this role, she also worked with the Secretary’s office on health and welfare reform.  
Shepard then transitioned to the private sector, serving as Vice President of Electronic Data Systems (now HP). There, she advocated for health and wellness programs and chronic care management services.  She later moved to Tivity Health, where she served as Vice President for Government and External Relations.  

As a post-graduate instructor, Shepard taught social work courses in California, and established an onsite MSW social work program in Monterey County with San Jose State to help recruit and promote candidates to the area and to support a bi-lingual staff.
Additionally, Shepard successfully advocated for adopted language for adult protection foster care system pilot in California; successfully advocated for adopted language on workplace wellness in the Affordable Care Act.

She is renowned for establishing a Rural Aging Advisory Council that advocated and championed for increased healthcare access in rural communities. This has recently transitioned to becoming a Healthy Aging Coalition, composed of over 40 stakeholders representing health plans, research, academia, government, non-profit advaocy, industry groups and faith-based organizations.  
Shepard led Tivity Health’s effort to address food insecurity by providing meals over 500,000 meals to seniors and assuring that over 10,000 shelf stables meals were sent to homebound older persons. This was forged with a partnership with the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs to assure a rapid response during the pandemic. She advocated and assured changes in Healthy People 2030 regarding social determinates of health and social isolation and loneliness.

She was a founding member of Women Business Leaders in Health Care - a group of more than 4,000 female healthcare executives committed to advancing women in the healthcare industry and on boards of directors. The group has helped place over 100 women on boards.

Shepard was a board member of Power to Decide, an organization committed to ensuring that all young people – no matter who they are, where they live, or what their economic status might be – have the power to decide if, when, and under what circumstances to get pregnant and have a child. 

Biographic Data 

Shepard’s career began in California where she worked with two governors on aging and long-term care strategy and served as the Director for Health and Human Services and community action programs for Monterey County. Shepard was also a professor of graduate social work students at San Jose State University. 

She is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers and has an MSW and a MA in Public Administration. She is a founding member of Women Business Leaders of the U. S. Health Care Industry Foundation and serves on several non-profit boards.

Shepard joined Tivity Health in 2004 and leads Government and External Relations for the Office of the CEO. In her position with the company, Shepard provides leadership and relationship management with government officials, strategic company partners, stakeholders, and industry and trade associations. She serves on many industry and association boards and manages the company’s political and policy agenda. She also leads a special initiative with external stakeholder groups entitled the Healthy Aging Coalition. 

She has extensive experience in both the government and business sectors. She served as the president of the Healthcare Industry Group for EDS (now HP) prior to joining Tivity Health where she oversaw a $1.6 billion dollar portfolio representing Medicaid, Medicare, and Veterans Services. Before EDS, Shepard was a presidential appointee for five years serving as a deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In this role, she was engaged in the White House Conference on Aging, efforts to “reinvent” government services, and policy efforts around health and welfare reform. 

Significant Recognition and Awards 

Shepard Received the Monty Award from San Diego State University in 2021.  She received the NASW award for Outstanding Administrator while in Monterey County.

Significant Publications

As an advocate, Shepard has produced papers on Social Determinants of Health, Social Isolation and Loneliness and the 2nd and the 3rd edition of Population Health, produced by Jefferson College Publications. She also published a special publication on the challenges of aging in rural America and a whitepaper on vaccine hesitancy in the senior population.

Newly Inducted NASW Social Work Pioneer Hortense McClinton 2015

Nominate A New NASW Pioneer

Please note, Pioneer nominations made between today’s date through March 31, 2023, will not be reviewed until spring 2023.

Completed NASW Pioneer nominations can be submitted throughout the year and are reviewed at the June Pioneer Steering Committee Meeting. To be considered at the June meeting, submit your nomination package by March 31. To learn more, visit our Pioneer nomination guidelines.

New Pioneers 

Congratulations newly elected Pioneers!  Pioneers will be inducted at the 2023  Annual Program and Luncheon. Full biographies and event details coming soon.