Communication Disorders Foundation of Virginia


Fall 2017: 

Best of the Best:  Every year, the CDF Board not only has the privilege of reviewing scholarship applications submitted by students from CSD educational programs in VA, but then has the post-selection opportunity to interview the recipients.  And, even better, we get to pass this information on to you, our generous donors, who made these acts possible.  Elizabeth Rainville of Old Dominion University, the 2017 Rita Purcell-Robertson Scholarship awardee, and Victoria Thomas of the University of Virginia, the 2017 David H. Narburgh Scholarship awardee, share their thoughts here.

FF:  What does receiving this scholarship mean to you?

I am extremely humbled to received the Rita Purcell-Robertson scholarship for the 2017-2018 academic year. Dr. Purcell-Robertson was a remarkable person and an inspiration in the field of speech-language pathology. It is an honor to be named recipient of a scholarship created in her name.  Like Dr. Purcell-Robertson, I hope to one day provide my patients with the most comprehensive and research-based care possible.  This scholarship provides me with the opportunity to have a clear focus on my academic studies and clinical fellowships, bringing me one step closer to reaching this goal.  I am grateful to the Communication Disorders Foundation of Virginia for not only the generous financial contribution that will assist me in pursuing my passion, but also for recognizing my clinical potential. 

Victoria:  To me, receiving this scholarship means I have the ability to continue my strong interest in research.  I have been a research assistant in the Child Language Disorders Lab at the University of Virginia for the past two years and have acquired a keen insight into the intricacies of research as well as a thorough understanding of the SALT software.  However, as an undergraduate, I received course credit for participating in the research and served as a substitute teacher at a local preschool on the side as my job during the academic year.  Given the intense demands of graduate school, I knew that I would not be able to work at the preschool as freely once beginning the program.  Thus, receiving this scholarship means that I can continue to work in the research lab, which I am very passionate and excited about, as the scholarship makes up the income I would have gained had I been able to continue work at the preschool.

FF:  Although your educational preparation is not yet complete, what areas of the field appeal to you as possible career choices?  Why?

Elizabeth:  I have always been passionate about working in pediatrics.  The current research and evidence-based findings are allowing clinicians to provide more thorough and comprehensive therapy to our youths than ever before.  These findings, along with their success, make it a very exciting time to be involved in the pediatric world.  There is something particularly special about supporting our youngest population as they become more confident in themselves.  There are a number of reasons why I truly admire the field of speech-language pathology; one reason in particular is that we are blessed with the opportunity to work with individuals of all ages and abilities.  Although it is my plan to work with children, I look forward to exploring all of my options while I finish my educational experience.

Victoria:  The areas of the field that appeal to me most are accent modification and bilingualism through which I’ve developed a heavy interest in becoming a bilingual speech pathologist.  This stems from a long history of studying foreign language and working with ESL individuals.  I’ve worked with individuals from Cuba and the Middle East, teaching oral and literacy skills for English, and also served as a volunteer to International TAs at my university to work on classroom skills and presentation, which included a strong focus on intelligibility in the second language.  These early experiences sparked my passion for helping others develop strong communication skills in the language that worked for them, something that I would like to continue with Spanish, my third language, as a future career choice--as studies in Hispanic Linguistics are tied with bilingual speech pathology.  I would love to marry them together if at all possible!

FF: In light of the many technological and research advances as well as cultural changes taking place in today's world, what new avenues do you think our field might pursue in the years ahead?

Elizabeth: Current research, coupled with modern technology, will result in significant changes in our future healthcare industry. Advances will provide clinicians with the ability to diagnose and treat patients while using cutting-edge treatment options, from minimally invasive procedures to artificial implants.  While our role will continue to focus on rehabilitation, I believe that speech therapy within the medical setting will have a new responsibility to evolve as technology becomes more advanced. 

Victoria:  While there has been a clear increase in the prevalence of technology and the breadth of research in speech pathology, I think one of the next areas of pursuit could be a more solid shift towards greater emphasis on education regarding working with multicultural/multilingual clients.  The number of these individuals in the US is constantly increasing across the lifespan; therefore, I could see the field putting more focus on education in this area, beginning at the graduate level.

FF:  Thank you both for your impressive answers, your words of wisdom!  They reflect the kind of intellect and dedication that individuals in our field will need to meet challenges in the years ahead.  You represent our future.  And we are grateful for that.

— Judy Rassi, Contributor            Contact: