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Mary Lehman Held

Associate Professor of Social Work and Director, MSSW Program, University of Tennessee
Chapter Member: Tennessee SSN

About Mary

Held's research focuses on mental health and access to health services by Latinx immigrants, especially in new immigrant destinations. Overarching themes in Held's writings include health access and utilization barriers among vulnerable populations, in addition to health disparities among Latinx immigrant communities. Held engages heavily with community-based organizations to provide trainings related to Latinx immigrant experiences and to engage in collaborative research. Held serves on the board of directors and as co-chair of the research and scholarship group for the Tennessee Interprofessional Practice and Education Consortium as an expert on the role of social workers on interprofessional health care delivery teams.

In the News

Quoted by Matt Lakin in "Bean Station ICE Raid: One Year Later, Workers Still Wait to Learn Fates," Knox News, April 4, 2019.
Opinion: "Fallout from Bean Station Meat-Processing Plant Raid Devastating to Children," Mary Lehman Held, Knox News, April 3, 2019.
Quoted by Angelina Chapin in "‘Children As Young As 5’ Could Face Immigration Court Alone, Experts Say," HuffPost, June 25, 2018.
Quoted by Jonquil Rose Newland in "Social Workers Discuss Why Families are Crossing the Border into the U.S.," News Channel 5 Nashville, June 20, 2018.


"Latino Immigrants in a New Destination State: A Qualitative Study of Provider Experiences" (with Jeff McCabe and Liz Thomas). Journal of Social Work Education 54, no. 4 (2018): 641-656.

Finds, through interviews with providers in Tennessee, four key themes of working with Latinx immigrants: sources of support, additional strengths, immigration-related stressors, and service provision gaps. Identifies the vast strengths and supports among Latinx immigrants, in addition to daily stressors and barriers to service utilization.

"Differences in Maternal Risk Factors among Undocumented Latinas in Nebraska by Country of Origin" (with Kelly Anderson, Daniel Kennedy, Elizabeth Vernon, Jennifer Wilkins, and Lisa C. Lindley). Hispanic Health Care International 16, no. 4 (December 2018): 189-196.

Finds that Mexican and Guatemalan participants have distinct maternal risk factors. Finds Mexican participants were older and at greater risk of obesity and excessive weight gain during pregnancy, while Guatemalan participants were more likely to receive inadequate prenatal care.

"Social Workers Must Stand Up for Immigrant Rights: Strategies for Action" (with Nalini Junko Negi, Benjamin Roth, Jennifer Scott, and Javier Boyas). Social Work 63, no. 4 (October 2018): 373-376.

Identifies strategies that social workers can take to better advocate for immigrants in their own communities.

"Correlates of Social Support Among Latino Immigrants" Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities 5, no. 2 (April 2018): 422-429.

Finds social support among Latino immigrants was lower for females, immigrants who are not married or cohabitating, and those with more stressors in the United States.

"Social Capital and Well-Being: Structural Analyses of Latina Mothers by Nativity" (with Matthew Cuellar). Journal of Maternal and Child Health 20, no. 9 (September 2016): 1948-1955.

Finds the role of social capital to be a significant mediator for the effects of age, education, and economic well-being on maternal well-being for native-born Latinas. Finds, for Latina immigrants, social capital significantly predicted maternal well-being and mediated the effects of age, education, and economic well-being on maternal well-being.

"Enduring Immigrant Ties: Supporting Families Left Behind" (with Yolanda C. Padilla). International Social Work 59, no. 4 (2016): 523-532.

Identifies, in a mixed-methods study, key reasons that immigrants remit wages to families back home to include food, education, housing, and health expenses. Suggests that immigrants gain positive feelings from helping family back home, while also fulfilling an obligation to care for these family members.