Linda is one of a select group of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) who have been NJSHA members for more than 30 years. She has also been one of the most active long-time members of NJSHA, joining in 1985, after relocating to New Jersey from Florida six years after earning her graduate degree. Her dedication to NJSHA is both exemplary and inspiring as she has served in many capacities always striving to fulfill our Association’s mission and goals. She worked at University Hospital in Newark for 33 years, ultimately serving as an acute inpatient and outpatient hospital manager. Recognizing the importance of training students and young professionals in medical speech-language pathology (SLP), Linda initiated the SLP Student Program at University Hospital. She and her colleagues readily accepted interns and clinical fellows, mentoring them to develop clinical skills and enlightening them on what compassionate care truly is. She retired in 2018, and she moved to Woolwich Township, Gloucester County, where she works part-time as an SLP at Camden Prep Charter School. She remains actively involved in NJSHA sharing her knowledge, talents and experiences with others. Linda is the current chair of the Ethics Education Committee.
Ms. Tucker-Simpson has experienced it all, serving in hospital management, home care, early intervention, a specialty hospital for tracheostomy and ventilator patients, assisted living, nursing homes and working in a residential facility for children and adults. Additionally, she was an adjunct professor at Montclair State University and she operated a private practice.
She has been honored numerous times by her NJSHA peers, such as the Honors of the Association in 2015, Distinguished Service Award in 2007, and her employer, University Hospital, awarded her the University Excellence Award in 1997. She also received the ASHA Award for Continuing Education (ACE) in 1988, 1991, 2001, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2014, 2017 and 2021.
What is the most rewarding part of being a NJSHA member?
NJSHA gives me the ideal platform to advocate for issues that interest me both personally and professionally. I have the opportunity to work on the state level to address the needs of SLPs and audiologists (AUDs) throughout the state, to promote legislation and find pathways to better serve consumers of speech-language pathology and audiology services. I worked with NJSHA colleagues as part of a telepractice/telehealth task force to establish initial parameters and language regarding telemedicine and ensured SLPs and AUDs were represented in this law. This legislation, signed into law 2017, has provided the foundation to enable law makers, health care providers and school-based clinicians to negotiate the COVID-19 pandemic to serve patients and students in New Jersey.
Most recently, when I served as NJSHA president from 2013-2015, by working with the NJSHA Legislative Agent and audiology allies, we were able to initiate the steps toward single licensure for audiologists. NJSHA’s legislative efforts have ultimately resulted in the passage of this very important bill receiving unanimous approval by two legislative committees and by the full Senate and Assembly, with Governor Murphy signing the law in March 2019. This law was officially adopted and published in the New Jersey Register on May 17, 2021. Amendments to AUDs’ scope of practice now includes dispensing and fitting of hearing aids under a single license. This legislative success showed what NJSHA members can do when we work together and engage with our allies. It has been tremendously satisfying to hear members’ concerns and advocate for them throughout my tenure.
What would you describe as the hallmark of your service to NJSHA over 36 years?
I would definitely have to say it would be my leadership in NJSHA’s Multicultural Issues Committee, becoming chair in 1988, and serving in that role for at least 20 years. The committee worked on many issues, such as providing education, information and best practices that monolingual and multi-lingual SLPs and AUDs could utilize when working with multicultural and bilingual students and patients. Under my leadership the committee initiated annual student symposiums that educate graduate students in SLP programs throughout the state on issues related to multiculturalism and bilingualism.
As a person of color, I felt it was important to be actively engaged at all levels of the Association to address the perception that leadership in NJSHA was only for professionals of certain racial and ethnic backgrounds. It was very important for people to know that in NJSHA, it does not matter whether you work in schools, hospitals, universities, home-care, early intervention, private practice or if you are a graduate student, there is a place for you to serve and to use your talents. I wanted people to know that NJSHA is a place where you can not only enhance your clinical skills through continuing education, you can also grow your leadership skills through participation on one of the numerous committees that NJSHA offers.
I have wanted members to know that NJSHA is not an elitist association, that all are welcome, that it is important to get involved and that their opinions truly matter.
How has NJSHA changed since you were president?
One of my goals as president was to encourage more members of color to seek leadership roles in NJSHA. Since my term ended as president, the board of directors and committee membership have become more diverse. I have seen how flexible and adaptable the board of directors, committee members as well as the membership at-large has been while addressing the barriers and issues brought on by COVID-19. NJSHA has continued to thrive and evolve, while addressing a very difficult moment in history.
I am also pleased to see our great advances in digital communication. Through remote digital meeting platforms, it is now easier and far more convenient for committee members to participate in meetings and events without the burden of traveling to a specific location. The new NJSHA website also looks more professional than ever and is efficient as well as user-friendly. Use of social media has become an effective means to connect with and to educate members, students, potential members and the public. As NJSHA continues to strive to fulfill our Association’s mission and achieve our strategic goals, staying connected is key. I look back on our amazing history, celebrate our current leaders cultivated by our rich legacy and I look forward to welcoming future leaders to NJSHA.