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DeSales Set to Develop New Speech-Language Pathology Program

by Janelle Hill Aug 19, 2020

DeSales University is once again eyeing an expansion of its top-rated healthcare programs.

The Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) has given the University the green light to begin the process of applying for accreditation for a new speech-language pathology program. 

DeSales is planning to offer both undergraduate and graduate programs beginning in the fall of 2022. It will also be one of only a few colleges or universities in Pennsylvania to offer an accelerated program that allows students to earn both degrees in just five years. 

The University has hired Dr. Susana Keller, CScD, CCC-SLP, as founding program director. Keller, who received her doctorate in medical speech-language pathology from the University of Pittsburgh and who previously taught at Moravian College and the University of Connecticut, will be responsible for building the program from the ground up. 

“Language is at the core of what makes us human,” she says. “So when it is lost or in any way impacted, I can’t think of anything more exciting than helping patients regain such an important function. And from a career perspective, I cannot imagine ever becoming bored. We have a lot of important work to do on both the research and clinical practice fronts.”

Speech-language pathologists help patients as they work to regain the ability to effectively communicate and swallow. With research driving new findings, the scope of the profession continues to expand. A student in the communication sciences will learn to diagnose and treat a broad scope of disorders.

“The work of a speech therapist can range from helping a four-year-old who should be able to say their ‘B’ sound and cannot to a 90-year-old suffering from Alzheimer’s disease who has difficulty swallowing,” Keller says. “Within these areas, a therapist might also work with a Broadway performer suffering from vocal nodules or a Fortune 100 executive who would like to improve his speaking skills.” 

Keller is currently exploring ways to differentiate DeSales’ program. She plans to take full advantage of the University’s Healthcare Simulation Center and Gross Anatomy Laboratory. Plans to host a clinic—either on campus or off campus—are also in the works. 

The need for speech-language pathologists is increasing across both the country and the state. It’s projected to rise nearly 34 percent nationally by 2027, with an expected increase of nearly 28 percent in Pennsylvania. That—coupled with DeSales’ reputation in nursing and healthcare—helps to make the program a perfect fit. 

“DeSales does healthcare very well, and we graduate not just competent practitioners but caring practitioners.”

 Ron Nordone, Dean of Graduate Education

“Knowing that this program is going to impact people positively is consistent with our vision and mission here at DeSales," says Nordone, who credits speech therapy with helping him as a child. "We are committed to developing a cutting-edge program that will attract exceptional students who will be leaders in the profession as well as help change lives.”