Kathy Palatucci is the president-elect of the New Jersey Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NJSHA). Kathy retired from Montclair State University in December as the speech clinic director. In that role over the past four years, she served as a clinical educator, professional specialist and externship coordinator. Kathy has 24 years of experience across many of the clinical settings fellow NJSHA members work, including special education schools, hospitals, inpatient rehab, skilled nursing facilities, sub-acute rehab, home health care, early intervention, outpatient pediatric and adult services, private practice and university clinic.
Unlike most NJSHA members, Kathy came to her career as a speech-language pathologist after more than 15 years as a professional singer and voice teacher.
Kathy attended graduate school for speech-language pathology initially to help those with voice difficulties and “ended up loving it all,” she said. Kathy was eager to learn the profession across all practice areas, helping patients through the rehabilitative process. It led to a long, satisfying second career, with the opportunity to develop lifelong friendships through NJSHA.
Now, as she embarks on retirement, Kathy looks forward to ascending to NJSHA president on July 1, 2021, and will lean on many of her experiences to steer the Association over the next two years. As the winner of the 2017 NJSHA Dr. George Gens Volunteer of the Year Award, Kathy knows that those who generously donate their time are the true backbone of NJSHA.
Why is NJSHA important to you?
“NJSHA is a terrific community of like-minded professionals. Our membership embraces the highest standards, is passionate about the fields of speech-language pathology and audiology and is fully committed to serving clients. We are a proud organization in which our members are eager to stay informed and connected, as we work together to advocate for those we serve. NJSHA is boundless in offering leadership and mentorship opportunities, as we identify challenges and solve industry problems.
I still recall how Hilda Pressman invited me to join the Healthcare Committee after attending my very first NJSHA Convention at the Atlantic City Convention Center in 2006. The opportunity to interact with hundreds of professionals around the state with similar passions is so memorable. I still remember standing up and asking a health care related question during the plenary session with 800 others. After that, I knew I wanted to be involved in NJSHA, help the organization in any capacity and work hard to recruit others who could also benefit from this special membership.
One of the most critical challenges in the past year has been our response to COVID-19. Our members have been really incredible: eager to share ideas and always ready to support each other. The NJSHA family has provided many ways in which members can connect as they navigate these difficult times.
Seeing others via Zoom due to the need to social distance has enabled more to participate in giving and receiving crucial information. The pandemic information posted on the website has been extremely important, not only for members but for all our professional associates throughout the state. NJSHA has truly been a goodwill ambassador during this time, another reason why this Association is so important to me.”
What vision do you have for our membership as you prepare to move into your position as association president?
“I can best describe the membership as concentric circles – all with the same mission and vision. As a volunteer organization, there’s a small core of members who do a tremendous amount of work [five percent], while there is a larger number who give their time to serve on committees or assist with events [10 percent]. The large majority of our members – about 75 percent – are involved to primarily attend continuing education events, while there is a remaining 10 percent who I believe are on the periphery. They continue their membership, but find it difficult to commit more time and energy to NJSHA.
I am convinced that member engagement is important for us as NJSHA to bring members one ring closer as they connect with like-minded professionals. We want to encourage as many members as possible to serve on committees or help with programming so that they can experience all this wonderful Association has to offer.”
What are you looking forward to as the next NJSHA president?
“I have very large shoes to fill; Robynne Kratchman is doing a tremendous job. With her strong leadership, she has been able to navigate NJSHA through these challenging waters, keeping members involved and engaged. Robynne has proven herself time and time again to be a focused, deliberate and committed president. I look forward to building on the work of Robynne, as well as Mary Faella who served as president before Robynne and has remained actively involved as immediate past president. I have learned so much from both of them in recent years. It has been such a privilege.
I have identified three areas of focus during my term as NJSHA president; I call them “NJSHA’s CCC.” These three are reflected as threads throughout the Strategic Plan developed for 2021-2023:
- Communication: to other committees; to members; to families/caregivers and to the public;
- Collaboration: working together; understanding the overlap between the NJSHA committees and the professions of their members; and
- Connection/Member Engagement: I want to make NJSHA personal. I see this demonstrated now; everyone wants and needs more connection. This makes membership in NJSHA more meaningful and more productive as we advocate for our profession and those who we serve.
As we move beyond this pandemic, I look forward to working with my NJSHA colleagues making these three areas a priority.”