INSPIRATION STORY #4: Megan Berg, A Study in Innovation and Entrepreneurship

As we feature CU SLHS/CDSS graduates in our Inspiration Series, innovation and entrepreneurship truly stand out. Megan Berg ('15) is no exception. 

Megan spent 8 years as a polar science communicator before she walked into her first level SLHS class in 2012.

When I entered SLHS on that hot August morning, I was motivated to find a career path that blended both science and humanity and gave my creativity a new place to grow. Little did I know that my grad school experience would be one of the most challenging and vulnerable experiences of my life. In the words of my favorite researcher, Brené Brown: ‘Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen". It took courage to show up each day and be seen. If I learned anything in grad school, it’s that the field of speech-language pathology is both an art and a science. When we treat communication, the brain, the swallow, we are really touching fundamental parts of what makes us all human- how we think, how we feel, how we connect, how we cultivate our souls.

I often felt like a failure in grad school, trying to get the right answers, but feeling like the “right” answer was ever elusive; trying to find a footing in a foggy world of limited research and a thousand shades of grey, where maybe the “right” answer means letting someone choose to die of aspiration pneumonia, or programming “F*** off” on their communication device, or holding someone’s hand as they cry, or laugh, or just be quiet in a space where pain and loss is so palpable that words only serve to take away from their journey. 

After 3 years of being graded on every single thought, idea, solution, and interaction, I began my school internship on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation with Sandy Frandsen as my mentor. On Pine Ridge, 97% of the population falls below the poverty line with an unemployment rate of 85% to 95%. At least 60% of the homes are without water, electricity, adequate insulation, and sewage systems. Outside of the structured grad school environment, in this rural, wild, wind-swept, impoverished, almost forgotten world of unspeakable pain and beauty, I began to find my footing in a place of ambiguity and paradox rather than finding the “right” answer for my GPA. It is a world in which I am far more comfortable and one in which I wish our learning and teaching environments more fully embraced. 

I left the reservation on a warm spring day and headed to Lincoln, Nebraska, where I completed my hospital internship at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital, which opened my eyes to how powerful a rehabilitation facility can be if given the freedom and ability to create and grow new ideas and new ways of doing things. Once you see this kind of energy, you can’t help but take it with you wherever you go.

Megan recalled SLHS faculty who influenced her. "I remember Dr. Sadagopan for her immense knowledge of anatomy and physiology as well as her passion for research and teaching. My goal is to someday be able to name the structure and function of the muscles of the pharynx and larynx with her finesse. Scott Schwartz, for saying, 'You should be able to walk into a room with a pencil and do great therapy.' and Allison Stamm had immense knowledge of dysphagia along with her sense of humor with memorable lines like, 'If your swallow recommendation starts to sound like a Starbucks order, no one’s gonna follow it.' "

Many of our alumni maintain close relationships with fellow SLHS grads, Megan is one of them. Photo left shows Megan with Molly Feider, Dana Van Oostenburg, Sarah Zebrowski, and Alice Ware. We always enjoy learning of these connections!

Megan currently works for a company in Missoula, Montana that serves both long-term care and transitional rehabilitation for a sub-acute population. She wrote that the city of Missoula "is in a really unique position right now, as the need for these services continues to grow and the quality of these services gets better and better. Like any fairly rural city, Missoula struggles with attracting enough service providers to adequately meet the needs of the population. Unfortunately, this means waiting months for neuropsychological or neurological services. I’m passionate about connecting resources within the community, including the university, non-profit organizations, hospitals, and SNFs to build a stronger culture of more integrated care for Missoula and surrounding areas as a whole.” 

Another of Megan’s professional pursuits employs her talents in graphic arts. 

As she began her SLP practice, Megan was inspired by a need to better understand neurophysiological structures and systems. “When I began my career, I found it difficult to find graphic therapy materials that were accurate and easy to understand, not full of cartoons. I started SLP Insights, a company that produces SLP graphics and therapy materials, particularly for SLPs who work with adults in rehabilitation settings (though many of the materials are appropriate for kids, too).” Among her projects you can see examples of her products on SLP Insights and at Megan Berg Designs

Megan doesn't stop there, entrepreneurship is a hallmark of her career.

Megan's SLP Insights recently launched “Therapy Fix,” a monthly subscription service that delivers therapy materials for SLPs. " I was inspired by my Stitch Fix subscription. Clothes shopping isn’t my favorite thing and I am stoked to get clothes in the mail that don’t require shopping trip. Therapy Fix is a monthly delivery of therapy materials designed for SLPs who work in rehab settings. It features cognitive-linguistic, language, and dysphagia therapy tasks/interventions, handouts for patients and families, stickers, calendars for people with low vision and memory impairments, mindfulness exercises, and more. It’s $20 a month and people can cancel at any time."

In her work, Megan focuses on ways to connect providers and university programs within the community to strengthen the quality of care provided within the rehabilitation setting. “My experience on the front range, as well as my experiences on the Pine Ridge reservation and Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital have given me a unique perspective in what we can do when we connect people and resources and act as a cohesive community force to improve lives and empower people to overcome some of the most difficult challenges of their lives.”

To put a head on it so to speak, outside of work Megan shared that she likes to brew beer. "I am currently attempting to understand how to hook up 3 kegs of home-brew to my new kegerator, which is a lot more difficult than it sounds, so if anyone has any advice, let me know." 

Cheers, Megan! Thank you for your story and inspiration.