2008 A Good Year for SLHS!: Interview with Gail Ramsberger, Chair

Dr. Gail Ramsberger, SLHS Chair
Dr. Gail Ramsberger, SLHS Chair

By Donna Boudreau, PhD '97

The Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences experienced some exciting developments in 2008 and is looking forward to 2009! In an interview with Gail Ramsberger, Department Chair, she shared details about the current state of affairs in SLHS at CU with an eye towards what is to come.

One of the most exciting areas of change that has occurred since many alumni have completed their individual tenure at CU has been the addition of new faculty to SLHS. (continued)

Dr. Anu Sharma
Dr. Phillip Gilley
Dr. Anu Sharma
Dr. Anu Sharma

Two years ago, the department welcomed Anu Sharma, who joined the faculty from the University of Texas at Dallas. Dr. Sharma’s research focuses on cochlear implants, plasticity of the nervous system, and age of placement. Dr. Sharma is interested in the affects auditory deprivation has on cortical development of children with hearing impairments. In 2007, Phillip Gilley, also from the University of Texas at Dallas came to the department as a research associate and after a national search, joined the faculty as an assistant professor. Although trained as an audiologist, Dr. Gilley is interested in brain imaging in a variety of areas of cognitive processing. His research utilizes several brain mapping techniques to study both the development and plasticity of multi sensory cortical interactions. Learn more about their work at the Brain & Behavior Laboratory website: http://www.colorado.edu/slhs/eeglab/personnel.html

Dr. Neeraga Sadagopan
Dr. Neeraga Sadagopan
Dr. Pui-Fong Kan
Dr. Pui-Fong Kan

Two new faculty joined the department in the fall of 2008. Professor Neeraja Sadagopan’s research focuses on motor speech disorders in the aging population. By studying speech production in the normal aging population, and specifically age-related changes in language-motor interactions, Dr. Sadagopan can apply this knowledge to understanding of motor control in persons affected with neurological diseases. Finally, Pui-Fong Kan is a child language specialist who joined SLHS from the University of Minnesota. She is interested in children learning multiple languages at an early age, and specifically the role of language experience and cognitive processing ability in language learning. Most recently, Dr. Kan has investigated spoken word acquisition in children in both their home and second language. Visit Dr. Sadagopan's webpage at: http://slhs.colorado.edu/people/neeraja.php and Dr. Kan's webpage at: http://slhs.colorado.edu/people/puifong.php

SLHS has also experienced some exciting changes related to the role of clinical faculty within the university. The department was awarded a clinical faculty track in 2008, allowing clinical faculty the opportunity to apply for reappointment through the ranks of assistant, associate, and full professor (similar to the tenure journey of academic faculty). This change is particularly noteworthy due to its uniqueness within the field of communication disorders, and the department is pleased to be front runners in recognizing the talents and contributions of their clinical faculty. The department is pleased to announce that Susan Moore and Anne Whitney were the first SLHS faculty to be awarded reappointment to full professor within this program. Lynea Pearson and Amy Thrasher have also been reappointed to Clinical Assistant Professorships.

In addition to growth in faculty, SLHS is also experiencing increasingly larger numbers of students. The Ph.D. and Au.D. program has experienced substantial growth, with the department graduating their first class of Au.D. students last year. A number of students who enroll in the Au.D. program will concurrently pursue their Ph.D. The Ph.D. program currently has between 10-15 students in speech, language & hearing sciences, who are at varying stages of the process.

The department has also experienced record increases in the number of students applying to the Masters degree program in speech-language pathology, enabling the graduate committee to choose highly qualified candidates in the graduate selection process. Currently, the program enrolls between 27 and 30 new students in this program each year. Dr. Ramsberger commented on how pleased the faculty have been with the quality of the students enrolling in the Masters’ program each year. It would seem that the word is out about what a wonderful program SLHS is!

When asked about her own work, Dr. Ramsberger reported she is currently serving in her third year as department chair. She shared that she has been “enjoying the journey”, while at the same time trying to find time to complete her own research. In her efforts to better understand how to achieve functional communication for persons with aphasia, Dr. Ramsberger has been investigating the cognitive and nonlinguistic contributions to success in linguistic communication. Specific treatments being studied include "constraint induced aphasia therapy" and "treatment of attention in persons with aphasia". She is currently completing a single subject research designs in collaboration with Dr. Barbara Rende, addressing changes of patient’s ability to engage successfully in conversations, with particular attention to the intensity of individual treatment. These efforts are particularly important to persons with acquired neurogenic disorders, as monies allotted for treatment through private insurance often end quickly. Dr. Ramsberger conducts several of these studies each semester. Anyone who is interested in learning more about this project, or may have a possible referral of a client to participate in this or other projects, can contact Dr. Ramsberger at gail.ramsberger@colorado.edu.

As a final note, alumni should be aware that the department is currently in the midst of a fund raising project. The targeted goal is to raise money to renovate the entire audiovisual system for the building. With the new technology identified for the renovation, upon completion of the project, each clinic room would be observable via the internet. This will allow for increased observations of sessions for both students and families, as well as provide more opportunities to web stream clinical sessions into academic classes. It will take approximately $100,000 dollars to complete the project (in addition to the university’s contributions). Anyone who is interested in supporting this project can make a contribution through the CU foundation. Please indicate you would like your support to go to the SLHS building project.For futher information go to: http://www.cufund.org/

Clearly, 2008 has been a wonderful year of growth for the SLHS department. Stay tuned for continued updates in the year to come! For all SLHS news, past and present, go to: http://slhs.colorado.edu/news.php