Margaret Mary Downey, PhD, MSW

Assistant Professor

Elk Place, Room 204
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Dr. Margaret Mary Downey is an Assistant Professor at Tulane University’s School of Social Work with a focus on the social and structural determinants of health inequities, particularly those in reproductive and maternal health. Her research interests include the role of health-related social workers as street-level bureaucrats and structural competency, an emerging education paradigm that trains health professionals in understanding the relationships among race, class, the embodiment of health inequities at the patient level, and symptom expression. Her current work uses critical ethnographic methods to examine how frontline health workers understand and intervene upon racial and economic reproductive and maternal health inequities. Dr. Downey completed a BA in English Literature at Temple University and an MSW and PhD in Social Welfare from the University of California, Berkeley.

Areas of Expertise

  • Health Disparities / Health Equity
  • Historical Oppression and Marginalization
  • Policy and Planning
  • Poverty, Economic Inequality, Homelessness, and Food Insecurity


  • PhD from University of California, Berkeley, School of Social Welfare
  • MSW from University of California, Berkeley, School of Social Welfare
  • Post-Baccalaureate Studies, Health & Societies, Urban Studies, University of Pennsylvania, College of Arts and Sciences
  • BA cum laude, English Literature, Temple University, College of Arts and Sciences

Selected Publications

  • Gómez, A.M., Downey, M.M., Carpenter, E., Leedham U., Begun, S., Craddock, J., Ely, G.E. (2020). “Advancing Reproductive Justice to Close the Health Gap: A Call to Action for Social Work.” Social Work. doi: 10.1093/sw/swaa034
  • Arteaga, S., Downey, M.M., Freihart, B., Gómez, A.M. (2020). “’We Kind of Met In-Between’: A Qualitative Analysis of Young Couples’ Relationship Dynamics and Negotiations about Pregnancy Intentions.” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 52(2), 87-95. doi:
  • Downey, M.M., Neff, J., Dubé, K. (2020). “Don’t “Just Call the Social Worker”: Training in Structural Competency to Enhance Collaboration between Healthcare Social Work and Medicine.” The Journal of Sociology and Social Work: Special Issue on Structural Competency, 46(4),
  • Downey, M.M., Gómez, A.M. (2018).“Beyond Immutable Barriers: Structural Competency and Reproductive Health.” American Medical Association Journal of Ethics, 20(3), 211-223. doi: *selected for American Medical Association Continuing Medical Education curriculum
  • Downey, M.M., Arteaga, S., Villasenor, E., Gómez, A.M.(2017). “More Than a Destination: Contraceptive Decision-Making as a Journey.” Women’s Health Issues, 27(5), 539-545.doi:
  • Shapiro, V.B., Hudson, K.D., &Downey, M.M. (2017).“Institutional Expectations, Opportunities, and Interest in the Professoriate: A Mixed-Methods Examination of Satisfaction Among Doctoral Students in Social Work”. Journal of Social Work Education, 55(3), 520-534. doi:
  • Beidas, R.S., Edmunds, J., Cannuscio, C., Gallagher, M., Downey, M.M., & Kendall, P. (2012). “Therapists’ Perspectives on the Effective Elements of Consultation Following Training.” Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 40(6), 507–517. doi:

Selected Funding

  • 2019-2020, University of California Dissertation-Year Fellowship ($27,000), University of California Office of the President
  • 2018-2019, Jane B. Aron Health Policy Fellowship($17,900), National Association of Social Workers
  • 2018-2019, Dissertation Completion Fellowship ($18,200), University of California, Berkeley
  • 2018, Graduate Division Summer Research Grant ($1,000), University of California, Berkeley
  • 2017, Myrtle Lytle Fellowship ($1,200), University of California, Berkeley
  • 2016, Human Rights Center Fellow ($5,000), University of California, Human Rights Center
  • 2015, Graduate Division Summer Research Grant ($4,000), University of California, Berkeley

Community Involvement

  • Research Consultant, Program Development, Evaluation, Homeless Prenatal Program
  • Wellness Team Social Work Intern, Homeless Prenatal Program
  • Medical Social Work Intern, California Pacific Medical Center, St. Luke’s Hospital
  • Birth Doula & Community Organizer, Philadelphia Alliance for Labor Support
  • Abortion Doula, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania
  • SERVICE Consultant and Community Organizer, California Schools and Communities First Coalition
  • Social Movements + Innovations Lab Member, The New School University
  • Berkeley Unit Chair & Bargaining Team Member, University of California Academic Student Employees Labor Union; UAW Local 2865
  • Co-Founder & Co-Facilitator, Privilege, Racism, and Oppression (PRO) Dialogue Series, University of California, Berkeley, School of Social Welfare