Interview with the 2018 Scholarship Recipients

Bright Future:  As regular readers know, the CDF interviews its annual scholarship winners.  Following is a brief exchange with our 2018 recipients.  Ponder their words, words that will surely give you a sense of pride in the quality of students entering our field and confidence that the field will continue to thrive in their capable hands.  Also evident here is the continued excellence of Virginia’s educational programs.  So join Julia Spong of the University of Virginia, 2018 Rita Purcell-Robertson Scholarship awardee, and Emily Speaks of Radford University, the 2018 David H. Narburgh Scholarship awardee, as they share their thoughts with us.

CDF:  What does receiving this scholarship mean to you?

Julia:  I am incredibly grateful to be the recipient of such a generous gift promoting the importance of education and academic growth for emerging speech-language pathologists.  My clinical work in the university clinic thus far has deepened my conviction that there is so much work to be done in our field.  Receiving this gift reminds me of the role I play in providing people of all ages and all language disorders with high-quality therapy.  This financial support means I will be able to focus even more of my energy this coming academic year on my coursework, lab work, and therapy.  In addition, I feel empowered to pursue my dream medical internship next summer at a top national rehabilitation hospital for spinal cord and brain injuries.  This gift will give me the freedom to move to wherever that internship may take me.  I am humbled by the CDF of Virginia’s generosity and commitment to the future generation of speech pathologists and audiologists, and am eager to begin my journey towards becoming the best speech-language pathologist I can be.

Emily:  I feel privileged to have the opportunity to live out the values and hopes Mr. Narburgh set out for aspiring clinicians regarding continuing education and networking.  Receiving the scholarship award made me feel equally humbled and proud.  Something like this is an outstanding honor, but I take seriously the responsibilities to follow through on my part by doing the work it takes to live out the notions of interprofessional communication to ensure continuity of care, as well as lifelong learning in order to continually grow and adapt my practices as a future clinician.

CDF:  At this stage of your educational preparation, what areas of the field appeal to you as possible career choices?  Why?

Julia:  Prior to beginning my graduate studies in speech-language pathology, I taught early childhood education for three years.  While working in a Title I school, I was exposed to a number of children with high emotional, financial and health-related needs.  The challenges I encountered and problem-solving skills I developed as an educator sparked my interest in pursuing the diagnosis and treatment of medically complex cases, particularly traumatic brain injury.  I love the critical thinking process involved in devising a treatment plan and crafting individualized therapeutic experiences for patients in critical need in intensive settings.

Emily:  At this point in my studies, I find myself open to many areas of the field and am excited to learn all I can through hands-on practicum placements this coming year.  With that being said, I also know I have developed a particular clinical interest since beginning graduate school in acquired brain injuries, how they impact an individual’s communication abilities, as well as the post-injury treatment and recovery processes.  I am looking forward to opportunities to work with individuals of this population in acute care or inpatient rehab settings as I find the intricacies of the brain regarding speech, language, and cognitive functioning to be fascinating, given that no two individuals or cases are ever the same.

CDF:  Your interests are certainly similar!  Tell us more.

Julia:  I am interested in working with neurological injury patients for a variety of reasons:  I am drawn to the mystery of the human brain, its ability to recover, and the immense precision and patience required when working with traumatic brain injury patients.  I currently work in the NeuroVoice lab at my university and have really enjoyed learning about the relationship between the brain and language and the role of various cortical structures in interpreting and controlling speech and language.  I am very passionate about rehabilitative therapy and helping people regain the skills needed to interact more fully in their daily environments.  Communication is a human right and all people should have access to communication that fits their personal needs.  My hope is that through a future career in rehabilitation therapy with traumatic brain injury patients, I can help reconnect people to their worlds, physically, perceptually, and emotionally.

Emily:  This coming year, I am fortunate enough to be participating in the New River Valley brain injury support group for adult survivors, led by two of my professors at RU.  I appreciate the chance to gain better understanding of the short- and long-term implications of brain injuries, in addition to the impact the care and support from healthcare professionals has on survivors and their loved ones.  I think this will be especially beneficial to me as a future clinician--as our jobs rarely end with treatment for the physical (speech and language), cognitive, and social aspects of communication, but extend to being there for patients and families who may experience emotional changes or adjustments as well.

FF:  Thank you, Julia and Emily, for reminding our readers--our CDF donors--that their ongoing scholarship support is indeed a worthwhile investment in the professions we value so much.  In you, we see a bright future filled with great promise.

Judy Rassi, Contributor