Maria Sardinas

1925 – 2018

Renowned leader for adult mentally ill and patient rights

Maria Sardinas, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of Social Work at San Diego State University for 23 years, dedicated her life and worked tirelessly on the issues confronted by seriously mentally ill adults and was engaged in efforts to affect social policies on their behalf. Dr. Sardinas was recognized locally, nationally, and internationally for her many contributions and continues to be a major force in the ongoing evolution of the public mental health system.

She received her MS from the University of Havana in Chemistry in 1945 and an additional MS from the same university in 1955 in Medical Social Work. She went on to acquire her MSW in Social Work at Columbia University in 1957. For over 45 years, Dr. Sardinas championed the rights of the adults suffering from mental illness in San Diego, California and elsewhere. She was renowned for her advocacy for adults suffering from mental illness and patient’s rights and her contributions to the education of social workers.

Her work focused on teaching and implementing the principles of Psychosocial Rehabilitation in order to improve services and the quality of life for clients. Dr. Sardinas was the first to teach Psychosocial Rehabilitation philosophy and practice in California. She served as a role model and mentor for many people.

She was instrumental in the development of the Maria Sardinas Center, an adult outpatient mental health program located in South San Diego near the San Ysidro region. She also helped to develop several other important programs such as the Institute of Chicano Affairs, Centro de Familia and Casa Familiar. Additionally, she was a founding member of Trabajadores de la Raza.

Dr. Sardinas has received numerous awards including Lifetime Achievement awards from both the National Association of Social Workers and the International Association of Psychosocial Rehabilitative Services. In addition, she was honored as “Mental Health Person of the Year” by San Diego County.

Since 2004, she maintained involvement with the planning and delivery of an annual Maria Sardinas Behavioral Health Institute Lecture Series. The audiences for these events are social workers, mental health providers, students, mental health consumers and their families. The Institute’s series aims to be a centerpiece of community education on the subject of psychosocial rehabilitation and behavioral health.

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