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.”
Mary Treuer, a passionate and energetic speech-language pathologist (SLP), is not one to stand idle when patient needs are not being met. Mary joined the Health Care Committee and soon initiated a dysphagia subcommittee to address the needs of patients with dysphagia. The objective was to inform colleagues in New Jersey about what New Jersey Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NJSHA) members can do to meet the needs of the adult population in skilled nursing facilities.
Mary, an experienced bilingual Spanish-speaking SLP, has demonstrated a history of working in inpatient, home health and educational settings. Her Master of Arts degree focused in communication sciences and disorders, speech-language pathology from Montclair State University. Mary’s undergraduate degree is in advertising communication and Spanish from Marist College. She also studied Spanish and humanities at the University of Sevilla, fully immersing herself in the language and culture further enriching her experience and preparing her to be a bilingual SLP.
After earning her graduate degree at Montclair State University in 2016, Mary has had the opportunity to work in education and health care settings. Mary says she spends her days working with young children in the Orange School District serving students from kindergarten through eighth grade. She additionally provides services to nonagenarians through per diem work at both the Atlantic Health System and RWJ/Barnabas.
“You can say I work with clients from age five to age 105,” Mary said, with a laugh. “So, this career is really a great opportunity to incorporate my skills across a wide breadth of people’s skills and challenges.”
VOICES sat down with Mary, of Denville, to learn more about her career and why she cherishes her membership in NJSHA.
What excites you about the SLP profession?
“There are so many types of positive experiences throughout my day, as well as opportunities to have my work recognized through NJSHA. I’m 30 years old, with five years of experience. I already have so much to be proud of. I have had the opportunity to help people speak again after they suffered a stroke or significant brain damage. I have helped people regain the ability to swallow and I have had the chance to collaborate closely with families at the hospital. In addition, I have worked closely with parents and their children to overcome speech issues so that they can become better learners in school.”
Why do you find NJSHA so valuable for your career advancement?
“I first became involved in NJSHA about a year into the field because I wanted to be part of an organization that advocates every day for what I do for a living. I wanted to be part of a team that advocates to state legislators on behalf of our industry and that informs me of what is happening at the state and national level. I also wanted to be part of the state Convention and be part of a true community as I fulfill my professional requirements, while developing lifelong camaraderie.
There is so much value in joining NJSHA, and having access to leaders in the field who are eager to help. I love the opportunity to continue learning about the field, as well as receiving updates about regulations and how it all directly affects the administration of health care. NJSHA provides tailored, relevant continuing education that I find invaluable for the work that I do every day. There is no reason for an SLP to not get involved; membership dues are very reasonable and the opportunities are endless to succeed.”
Who is your “NJSHA Hero” and why?
“There is no question that my NJSHA Hero is Barbara Schwerin Bohus, MS, CCC-SLP, a veteran, hospital-based SLP. Barbara spent her time educating me about the many values and benefits of NJSHA membership. She pulled me along to become an advocate for our industry. I look up to her as the type of SLP I hope to one day be. She seems to have all the answers, and she was the one who made sure I attended the state Convention. I even had the opportunity to speak before my colleagues at the 2019 NJSHA Convention. As a new person in this association, with a new career, I was already a peer presenter! I really want to thank Barbara for her continued guidance and friendship, which has meant all the world to me as I learned the many benefits of NJSHA membership.”
What is your next challenge?
“People are always asking me that well-known question: `Where do you see yourself in five years?’ My goal, eventually, is to open my own private practice. My husband is a mental health therapist so maybe, together, we can offer teletherapy services at home and in-person. And maybe we bring along a physical therapist and an occupational therapist for a full array of services. Whatever happens, I will definitely rely on guidance from my friends and colleagues in NJSHA, who are eager for me to succeed in whatever part of the industry I choose to work.”
What is something surprising or unexpected you have learned through your position?
“There is a lot of poverty where I work. Some people don’t have access to nutritious food on a regular basis. What is the most surprising in Essex County, where I work, is the enormous disparity. There are a lot of very wealthy areas and a lot of very poor ones. These are different worlds that often do not meet. As an SLP, and a proud member of NJSHA, I am proud to serve all residents, no matter their income, and do what I can to ensure everyone has access to quality speech-language services. As a bilingual professional, I believe I offer a very important service to diverse populations that are not always represented, doing my best to make sure that their voices are heard too.
I am flattered to be part of this profession and part of this organization. I so much look forward to growing over the years with my colleagues. There are such tremendous mentors in NJSHA. I am so fortunate to be involved!”
Justine Luminoso, MA, CCC-SLP, continues to expand her career as she embarks on her second year of work as a newly certified speech-language pathologist and an active NJSHA member. During her graduate training, Justine worked in public schools, administering formal assessments to preschool through middle school students presenting with various receptive, expressive and social communication disorders. She was also assigned to an inpatient rehabilitation hospital, evaluating and treating patients with cognitive communication disorders, expressive/receptive language disorders, traumatic brain injury and voice disorders. She continued to expand her career by serving as NJSHA’s chair of the Student Involvement Committee, where she focused on establishing, maintaining and enhancing an active network among students in New Jersey speech-language pathology programs and to increase student membership in the association. Justine additionally served as the student representative for the NJSHA Board of Directors (2018-2019) where she had the opportunity to work alongside professionals who served as mentors and collaborative partners while supporting the needs of students and promoting association projects.
Why did you choose to become a speech-language pathologist (SLP)?
In 2014, my grandfather suffered a stroke and needed speech therapy. Unfortunately, he passed away within a week; however, during that difficult time, I was able to see how SLPs helped my grandfather, from feeding him, to helping him to talk, to answering our questions in order for us to communicate with him. It was really touching. I saw how SLPs can help people regain their skills, as well as develop them. As a child, I had a very hard time pronouncing “S,” and an SLP was there for me. I will always remember that. I knew being an SLP was the career for me.
Today, I am a newly certified SLP, working at Speech and Hearing Associates in Westfield. I am so excited about what I do. Everyday, I can put smiles on the faces of my clients. I can watch their progress, and I have the tremendous satisfaction of knowing I was able to help them communicate better. The appreciation from my clients and their families is so rewarding.
How did you become involved in NJSHA?
I joined as an undergraduate at Kean University, after the urging of Professor Marty Shulman, who has been encouraging his students to join for decades. We went to our first NJSHA Convention and I was hooked! I became the representative of the Student Involvement Committee at NJSHA in my graduate year at Kean and have been happily involved ever since.
It has been terrific to meet with so many experienced SLPs and audiologists in the state. Everyone is so welcoming and eager to help, such as with recommendations for clinical fellowships or with possible career opportunities. I know I can reach out with a question and so many NJSHA members will want to help me. It is such a wonderful group of people.
What NJSHA project have you been most excited about?
I had the opportunity to work last year on NJSHA’s “Community Caring Connect” project, in which we set up a booth at the NJSHA Convention in Long Branch and provided materials for participants to decorate superhero capes, which we then donated to the pediatric unit of Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune. It was so awesome to decorate the capes and then deliver them to the hospital, where we were able to take photos with staff. It was all-around a great event and so worthwhile. I’ll never forget it.
I received plenty of support on this project from Donna Spillman-Kennedy, which is why I consider her to be my “NJSHA Hero.” She has guided me through this entire journey as an amazing colleague and has really trusted me. Donna always assures me “everything will be ok,” and she has always been there for whatever I need.
Working with Donna on the “Community Caring Connect” campaign underscored to me, yet again, that NJSHA is a family. We may not know everyone, as there are so many members across New Jersey, but I know that I can always rely on the association members whenever I need guidance or a trusted resource.
How can others get more involved in NJSHA?
NJSHA has so many committees; there are endless ways for members to get involved in whatever area they have passion and interest.
For me, it is about continuing to grow NJSHA. The last Convention was cancelled, as we all know, so we lost an opportunity to interact. We plan to have another “Community Caring Connect” project. The current student representative for the NJSHA Board of Directors and I want to get more students involved in this community service campaign. There needs to be a focus on the next generation of NJSHA, and we need to continue to be mentors for these students.
I want these speech and audiology students to be very comfortable coming to me and asking questions about NJSHA and the profession. It wasn’t very long ago that I was one of them, so I really see things through their eyes. That is why I still want to be connected with NJSHA’s Student Involvement Group and look for ways to start new projects and get back to the universities, where we can bring other students into NJSHA. We want these students to grow with us, take advantage of the many benefits of NJSHA and see what we can accomplish next, together.
Barbara Schwerin Bohus
Barbara Schwerin Bohus, MS, CCC-SLP, veteran hospital-based speech-language pathologist (SLP) has devoted her long career to patients, staff and students in training. She has served as vice chair or chair of the NJSHA Health Care Committee for more than 10 years and has been an advocate for patients as well as SLPs regarding legislative and practice issues. Barbara has served as the ASHA appointed State Advocates for Reimbursement (STAR) and the State Advocate for Medicare Policy Network (StAMP) representing New Jersey since 2003. As supervisor of speech-language therapy in a New Jersey hospital, Barbara has encountered many challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are grateful for her service and want to share with you what it has been like for SLPs working on the front line.
Q: How has your work as a hospital-based SLP impacted patient care during the COVID-19 response? What is the role of the SLP team?
The general public has recognized health care workers for all that they have done during the pandemic; however, most people don’t understand the role of an SLP and why one would be needed. Our essential job is to address inpatients with COVID-19 who have dysphagia. We did not know what type of swallowing deficits would occur secondary to this diagnosis. We quickly learned how weak these patients are. Patients had difficulty sitting up, feeding themselves and moving at all during eating/drinking. We kept a careful eye on their respiratory and heart rate. We dealt with high flow nasal cannulas and non-rebreather masks.
As the number of patients grew, so did the role of health care workers. Many therapists were deployed with changes in their shifts in order to work when and where they were needed. For example, they served as runners for nurses or helped with prone positioning of inpatients to improve oxygenation.
There has been so many changes in health care delivery. By mid-March, hospitals were no longer permitting visitors. It was eerie to go through the halls, filled only with hospital workers, as loved ones could not be there. SLPs and other medical workers were present in order for the patients not to be alone and to soothe them as best they could.
Q: What has been most impactful to you as you have been on the front line during this time?
The world quickly changed for the SLP in this unprecedented time. We had to learn immediately how to treat a COVID-19 inpatient. We learned the changes in donning and doffing PPE, such as how to wash our hands with our gloves on. At the beginning of all of this, hospitals were quickly developing policies and changing them according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were new directives every day. This caused some fear and anxiety among the SLPs. Some professionals were concerned, as they never agreed to serve during a pandemic and were worried about potentially infecting their families and small children when they went home. SLPs needed to be brave, to walk into the inpatient’s room and to treat an inpatient while a roommate might be dying.
We are pleased to see that the balance is shifting in the hospital where I work in northern New Jersey. There are now more non-COVID-19 inpatients than COVID-19 inpatients. We have come to know a new normal. The hospital staff must have their temperatures taken before permitted to enter a building on the hospital grounds. New protocols and procedures are being formulated, for instance how to work with outpatients who have dysphagia, laryngectomies or tracheostomies considering that there is a risk of aerosolization. The upper aerodigestive track and when appropriate the lower respiratory track must be tested for COVID-19. The patient and the SLP must remain protected moving forward with proper PPE, i.e., face shields and gowns. Outpatient rooms need to be safeguarded from any aerosolization by being shut down and cleaned after treatments.
Q: Are there some positive outcomes you see as a result of this experience?
Teamwork is the most positive outcome. I watched a group of professionals come together to handle so much stress with more patience than during a regular workday in the hospital setting.
Initially, nurses entered newly made negative pressure inpatient rooms to complete dysphagia evaluations without complaint while SLPs looked through newly designed doors with glass windows to guide the nurses through the testing and to view the patients’ results. This method of testing was conducted until the SLPs were educated regarding donning/doffing of PPE and there was enough PPE available for the non-nursing staff.
Nursing aide assistants entered the patients’ rooms to assist the SLPs even before we had to request help with repositioning inpatients or needing supplies. Staff from Environmental Services had to clean inpatients’ rooms, and all health care workers helped with delivering items into patients’ rooms or making the rooms neater.
One of the most memorable moments were the clap-outs when patients were discharged from the hospital who survived COVID-19 including fellow peers on staff. It was wonderful to see police and fire departments along with the public expressing appreciation of the health care and essential workers. The recognition made me feel emotional with sentiments that I had bottled up inside.
Q: Who is your NJSHA hero?
It sounds cliché; however, my NJSHA hero is our president, Robynne Kratchman, for all of her work during this very difficult time. She is ensuring every area of speech-language pathology and audiology is recognized, and sharing how we are all impacted during this pandemic. Robynne is doing an excellent job of keeping the NJSHA website current and informative. She has the capacity to look at all facets of our field and find ways to create a positive impact on all NJSHA members.
Dr. Marykate Vaughn
The year 2020 marks the 30th year in practice for audiologist Marykate Vaughn, AuD, CCC-A. A NJSHA member since her student days, Marykate credits the Association with playing an essential part in enhancing her career. After receiving her undergraduate degree in speech-language pathology/audiology from Trenton State College (now TCNJ), Marykate pursued her master’s degree in audiology at Kean University where she met Martin Shulman, PhD, CCC-SLP. She recalls how Dr. Shulman, a NJSHA legend, would hand out membership applications to students in all the graduate courses he taught. “He always told us that we would never regret joining NJSHA,” Marykate said. “And I never have. I’ve been a member now for more than 25 years.”
A NJSHA Board member since 2011, Marykate has been a leader in New Jersey’s audiology community for decades. Early in her career, NJSHA nominated her for a position on the New Jersey Audiology and Speech Language Pathology Advisory Committee, the professional licensure board in the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, where she served from 1992 to 1998, including a term as Committee Chair. An active member of NJSHA’s Audiology, Legislative and Convention Committees, Marykate served on the Executive Council as part of her tenure as a NJSHA Board member. She has found that being involved in audiology outside of daily practice has contributed to her personal and professional growth. “Being involved on issues related to scope of practice, legislative affairs, continuing education and other professional matters, has impacted my approach to clinical care and motivation to follow best practices.”
NJSHA places a significant focus of its attention on audiologists, a strong component of the Association’s membership, and ensures that the profession benefits from the Association’s legislative agenda and public outreach programming. “Because of NJSHA’s ongoing advocacy efforts, the Association has a strong reputation across many state entities including the Division of Consumer Affairs, the Department of Education and the Department of Health. I’ve been proud to represent NJSHA and our patient populations in meetings with legislators and other professionals over the years.”
Marykate is pleased with NJSHA’s strong legislative advocacy, most notably the passing of the audiology single license bill. Members of NJSHA and the New Jersey Academy of Audiology (NJAA) have been advocating for this legislation for 10 years in the halls of Trenton. Governor Phil Murphy finally signed a bill in March 2019, allowing audiologists who hold a degree from an accredited graduate program to fit hearing aids without the need for a second license. The regulations are in the process of review by the attorney general and should soon be entering the final phases for enactment.
As audiologists are aware, there are currently many pressing issues within the profession. That is why Marykate and other prominent audiologists in NJSHA and NJAA continue to ensure that the audiology track at NJSHA Conventions include programming that focuses on the challenges and opportunities facing audiologists in this new decade. This includes sessions on age related hearing loss, ethics, patient-centered care, amplification technologies and changes in service delivery models. “Through my career I have seen the profession of audiology evolve from the master’s to doctoral level entry education requirement. By virtue of our training, audiologists are the premier hearing healthcare professionals, and we must promote ourselves as such, and emphasize the importance of our services and expertise.”
With a successful, 30-year career as an audiologist and years of leadership in NJSHA, what is next for Marykate?
In her clinical practice as an audiologist with Summit Medical Group since 2013, Marykate enjoys working with people of all ages, from babies to seniors. “I love the diversity in our patient population, but I have a special passion for working with the aging population. I am very focused on working with people who are aging and trying to support them,” she said. “Growing older brings increasing challenges both physical and cognitive. I want to promote living better as we live longer. Hearing is a critical element that keeps people connected, engaged and active. Hearing loss can lead to isolation, and early identification and treatment is essential.”
Marykate said there needs to be more education about hearing aids and ensuring that people use them correctly. There has been such a marked improvement in device technology and individuals should seek audiology services to ensure their devices are well-fitted and to learn to use them most effectively. This includes aural rehabilitation and training in communication strategies. “Hearing is more about your brain, than it is about your ears,” she said.
“With NJSHA’s help, I would love to promote increased awareness of the impact of hearing loss on the aging population, and the importance of early identification. We recognize how critical it is to identify hearing loss in children early, I would like to see the same emphasis on early diagnosis of hearing loss in adults.” Often, she said, many adults have not had a hearing test since their elementary school days. Marykate emphasized the need to educate primary care physicians (PCPs) on the link between aging, hearing loss and other health concerns. PCPs should be screening for hearing loss as part of an adult well visit and referring those who don’t pass to an audiologist for evaluation. Educating physicians and patients on the early signs of hearing loss, and the negative health outcomes that can be associated with untreated hearing loss, in addition to discussing risk factors – family history, noise exposure, medications and practicing prevention, can raise awareness and potentially reduce negative effects later on. Just as many people have vision loss, they will likely also have hearing loss over time, and that number is increasing as our population lives longer. “Patients should be aware of the impact of hearing loss on their day-to-day communication, long-term health and quality of life. I want people to be best prepared for the next phase of life.”
For more than 30 years, Sue Goldman has been one of the strongest, most vocal advocates for NJSHA and our school-based professionals. Sue served as the NJSHA President from July 2000 to June 2001 while simultaneously serving as chair of the School Affairs Committee (SAC). Over the years she has used her experience as a public-school speech-language pathologist (SLP) to help advocate for policies that benefit all students with speech-language disorders.
Barbara Glazewski, a retired Kean University professor and a NJSHA past president, has worked with Sue since the mid-1990s and praises her hard work over the years. She explained that Sue worked diligently as SAC chair to effect change for students and fellow SLPs and that she was a zealous advocate and perfect for the job. Barbara recalls Sue’s strong emphasis on
school-based SLPs and the need to ensure they have a powerful, consistent voice in Trenton. She recounted how Sue arrived on the scene when school-based SLPs were not speaking up for themselves. At the time, NJSHA was eager for a leader who could understand the issues, teach members to become vocal advocates and truly understand the intricacies of the state’s special education code. “She built such an entity of school-based speech-language pathologists in the state that all the advocacy expanded to a national level. This is why Sue was asked to serve on the committee to update what is now [the most current version of] ASHA’s Roles and Responsibilities of Speech-Language Pathologists [in Schools], the bible for school-based speech-language pathology.” Sue is also widely lauded as a co-author of the New Jersey Department of Education’s Technical Assistance Document: The Evaluation of Speech and Language.
Sue has remained in close connection with the state Department of Education’s Office on Special Education Programs (NJOSEP), and is still able to interpret and explain the code like no other. She has worked diligently over the years to ensure these interpretations are accurate by networking with SAC and the NJOSEP. “Sue knows New Jersey’s special education laws backwards and forward,” said Robin Kanis, another NJSHA past president, who has served on numerous NJSHA boards and committees with Sue over the years. “She has been a presenter nationally and an instructor for many, many years. By far, Sue is one of the most respected school-based speech-language specialists I know.” We always look to Sue whenever there is a question or a quandary,” Barbara said. “We circle the wagons and we try to figure out what Sue Goldman would do.” Donna Spillman-Kennedy added that Sue advocates for both students and professionals, ensuring SLPs remain in compliance with state and federal regulations. Donna added, “Sue is truly an inspiration as she challenges others to get involved and to ask questions. Sue, through her efforts, has given NJSHA a strong, consistent voice at the State Department of Education.”
In 1997, Sue received the Governor’s Teacher of the Year Award in Middlesex County for her work at her elementary school. She has earned 13 ACE awards for continuing education from ASHA as well as the Volunteer of the Year Award, Honors of the Association and the Distinguished Professional Service Award from NJSHA.
Sue represented New Jersey as the first ASHA State Education Advocacy Leader (SEAL) representing New Jersey. She was also a member of ASHA’s School Finance Committee, ASHA’s Legislative Council and ASHA’s Speech-Language Pathology Advisory Committee (SLPAC).
She is widely known for presenting engaging workshops on various school topics, such as In-class Collaborative Integrated Speech-Language Services, Diagnosis vs. Eligibility Relative to Speech-Language Therapy in Schools, The New Jersey Special Education Code 6A:14 and The SLP’s Role in Literacy.
Since 1998, Sue has been an adjunct professor at Kean University and has taught hundreds of students about what it means to be a school-based SLP. Students are still benefiting from her impressive research and ongoing efforts to innovate and advocate. Barbara recalls Sue as the prized professor: “She teaches a very rigorous course; the students learn the code” she said. As a member of the adjunct faculty at Seton Hall University, Sue worked for three years as a clinical supervisor, investigating and developing innovative speech-language service delivery models and literacy lessons in preschool programs.
Never one to take it easy, Sue remains an active member of the NJSHA board of directors and is active on several committees. She also volunteers for the program advisory board of the New Jersey Coalition of Inclusive Education (NJCIE) and is a member of the New Jersey Tiered Systems of Supports Committee (NJTSS) via the state Department of Education. Even though she is retired from the schools, Sue still performs occasional evaluations for students of all ages. Her hands-on experience as a school-based SLP for a significant part of her career has proven invaluable to many families looking for answers.
“Sue’s mission in life is not just to advocate for the profession, but to also advocate for the kids we are serving,” Barbara added. “She is a champion in advocacy whenever we go to Trenton to testify before the state Board of Education.” Sue has always been a big advocate for making sure kids get what they need and that school-based SLPs get what they need,” Robin Kanis said. “The first person who always responds when someone has a question about our profession? That would be Sue.”
Dr. Mary Jo Santo Pietro
For Mary Jo Santo Pietro, PhD, CCC-SLP, a recently-retired professor in Kean’s School of Communication Disorders and Deafness, treating those with aphasia has been a lifetime of service.
She still has vivid memories of working at a Veterans Administration hospital in Brooklyn in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as a doctoral student, when many returning GIs from Vietnam were being treated for head injuries, unable to speak or understand speech.
Specializing in neurogenic communication disorders, such as aphasia and dementia, Mary Jo took the academic route, joining the faculty at Rutgers University in 1979, and quickly becoming a member of NJSHA. She then moved to City University of New York in 1990 and then joined Kean University in 1995, teaching a generation of students about aphasia.
Now, in her academic retirement, Mary Jo is looking forward to the next chapter in her life to serve those with aphasia, as an inaugural member of the first-in-the-nation Mike Adler Aphasia Task Force. Other members of the task force from NJSHA include Linda Tucker-Simpson and Janice Dibling. Both Mary Jo and Linda are former NJSHA presidents.
The task force, expected to convene this fall for its inaugural meeting, will monitor the prevalence of aphasia in New Jersey, assess the unmet needs of the population, establish aphasia support groups, services and other resources and provide recommendations to the governor and state Legislature on behalf of the 70,000 New Jerseyans living with aphasia.
“I hope the task force will build a prominent set of supports for people with aphasia,” Mary Jo said. “There are many counties in New Jersey where there are no support groups for aphasia. Often, once you leave the hospital or rehabilitation center diagnosed with aphasia, there is so little knowledge out there to help you. Often, the nurses and social workers don’t know how to address it.”
The retired professor hopes that many of the county-based Offices on Aging will create programming for people with aphasia and their families, noting there are only a limited number of counties, including Bergen County, with initiatives in place to serve this population.
“What we really are hoping for is a network of community groups, where people with aphasia, their families and caregivers, can get information and services,” she said. “Another priority is investing to create aphasia support centers at universities with graduate-level speech-pathology programs.
Mary Jo, who lives in Metuchen, says the education of professionals is critical. “More than 90 percent of people with aphasia develop clinical depression,” she noted. “We have the research that shows that. But we don’t have many psychologists or counselors who know how to talk to someone with aphasia. There is movement now. Hopefully, the task force will provide support for counselors, especially in public health, to counsel people with aphasia so they don’t become so isolated.”
Mary Jo was chair of the original New Jersey Aphasia Study Commission, launched in 2012, which published its final report in May 2015. The commission’s findings led to the creation of the bill that establishes the statewide aphasia task force dedicated to connecting individuals with aphasia with existing treatments, while also expanding existing services.
“The National Aphasia Association recently estimated that 2.5 million people in the United States have aphasia,” added Mary Jo. “I hope that the permanent task force will help make many more resources available for people with aphasia throughout all of New Jersey, and encourage the development of these initiatives across the country.”
Also on the 13-member task force are the state’s commissioners of health and human services, six public members, and one representative from each of the following: the Adler Aphasia Center, Kean’s Center for Communication Disorders and Deafness, JFK-Johnson Rehabilitation Institute, Lingraphica, as well as private practice.
In announcing the initial seven members of the task force, Governor Phil Murphy said, “Aphasia is a challenge that too many of our fellow residents face. I’m proud to appoint this distinguished group to help find solutions and provide support for our friends and neighbors who face this condition.”
“Mike Adler was a very dear friend,” added Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg. “And naming this task force in honor of his work was exceedingly appropriate. It is gratifying to finally see the task force fully appointed and ready to do the work on behalf of the thousands of people suffering from this tragic and debilitating disorder.”
For Mary Jo, now is the time to get down to work. The task force has been years in the making, the legislation has passed, the appointments have been made and now it is all about scheduling the inaugural meeting this fall.
“We all can’t wait to get started!” she said.
Dr. Martin Shulman
Marty earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Brooklyn College and a PhD at the University of Minnesota in Speech Science, Pathology and Audiology in 1973. He was able to land an assistant professor job at Kean the very next year, setting him on an educational career that spanned five decades.
Shortly after joining the faculty at Kean University, he was tasked with running the NJSHA Convention in 1975. He then quickly escalated to president. Joyce Heller encouraged him to join and become a NJSHA leader.
In his many, many years of service, Marty jokes he has held every single job at NJSHA. Throughout his years of volunteerism, Marty has chaired and sat on numerous NJSHA committees and won several awards, including Honors of the Association.
Moreover, Marty has helped form and has been a member of the Higher Education Committee. He spearheaded efforts to have a Student Affairs Committee as well as having a graduate student sit on the NJSHA Board.
Because of his efforts, a high percentage of graduate students at Kean University are NJSHA members and regularly attend the NJSHA Convention.
In his role at Kean, Marty was known for molding a popular program that addresses all aspects of speech-language pathology and offers classes in areas such as dysphagia and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) as well as more traditional disorders.
Marty has always given back to Kean, serving on the Faculty Senate, the Administrative Council, the University Promotion Committee and many more positions over the years.
Marty has also been in private practice as a speech-language pathologist from 1976-2008 and worked as a consultant for the Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey from 1985-2001.
A Marty Fun Fact: He was the original chair of the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Advisory Committee at the State Division of Consumer Affairs in Newark. Marty received the first license in speech-language pathology from the committee.
“Although a veteran NJSHA board member and a busy professional, Marty never said “no” when asked to perform a task for NJSHA, no matter how demanding it was,” said NJSHA Immediate Past President Mary Faella, who nominated him for the Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Marty is a truly devoted NJSHA member who concentrates his volunteer efforts toward his state association,” Faella said. “I can think of no one who deserves more recognition, and our deepest gratitude, as well as the title of `Mr. NJSHA’.”