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(Boston) – Boston University recently named Gail Steketee, Ph.D., dean ad interim of the university’s School of Social Work. Steketee, professor and clinical practice co-chair at the school, succeeds Dr. Wilma Peebles-Wilkins. An expert in anxiety disorders, especially obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and related conditions, Steketee will serve in this position while a search for a permanent dean is undertaken.
“Gail is one of our stars and we are thrilled that she has accepted this opportunity and will be working to make our students the best in the field,” said David Campbell, Boston University provost ad interim. “In nearly 20 years with the university, she has made tremendous contributions and served our students exceedingly well. Gail will build our capabilities school-wide as we continue to grow on the national stage, turning out the best and brightest young professionals dedicated to making the world a better place.”
Steketee, who joined BU in 1986 and was named associate dean for academic affairs in 1996 and co-chair of the clinical practice department in 2000, will balance her administrative duties with research responsibilities. She is currently working on developing cognitive and behavioral treatments for those afflicted with compulsive hoarding, a disorder in which people tend to acquire excessive quantities of certain types of items, have difficulty discarding possessions, and live in cluttered, unorganized homes, through a $1.17 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.
During her tenure, Peebles-Wilkins transformed the school into a well-respected research institution with a growing national prominence. It now ranks among the top 20 graduate schools of social work, according to U.S. News and World Report, and eighth among private schools. Over the past decade, faculty have authored dozens of books and published extensive research in a host of categories critical to furthering the field of social work locally, nationally and internationally.
“I am very excited about this opportunity and recognize the big shoes that I have to fill,” said Steketee. “Wilma did an absolutely tremendous job in growing the school and enhancing its prominence nationally, and I look forward to continuing her work.”
In addition to the National Institute of Health hoarding study, Steketee is involved in numerous other ongoing research projects on this topic. She has examined family factors that predict treatment outcome for patients with panic disorder, agoraphobia and those with OCD. Steketee also co-chairs a large group of international researchers, the Obsessive Compulsive Cognitions Working Group, who are developing and testing cognitive assessment strategies for OCD using multi-site research methods. She was recently co-principal investigator on a project to develop and test a cognitive therapy for OCD and is currently joining colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital and Butler Hospital in Rhode Island to develop cognitive and behavioral treatments for body dysmorphic disorder.
Steketee is an active member of the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium, which studies strategies to assist both the people and the animals. An author of numerous articles and chapters on OCD, related anxiety disorders, and compulsive hoarding, she has published three books on OCD for clinicians and for sufferers and their families and has two books that will be published in the coming year on compulsive hoarding.
Steketee received a Ph.D. from the Bryn Mawr Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, where she also obtained her master’s in Social Work in Psychiatric Social Work, and she received her undergraduate degree from Radcliffe College. Prior to joining BU, Steketee served as a research associate at the Temple University Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry.
The Boston University School of Social Work, one of the university’s 17 schools and colleges, is one of the oldest schools of social work in the country. The school, which awards master’s and doctoral degrees, is known for research and training in the fields of substance abuse, gerontology, mental health, and children, in addition to the involvement of its faculty in community-based projects. BU is the fourth-largest independent university in the United States with an enrollment of more than 29,000 students.