Rehab Science PhD student wins prestigious award for transgender study

Speech-language pathologist receives funding to study voice in male-to-female transgender individuals

Laurie Wang - 29 October 2015

(Edmonton) It all started when her first transgender client said, "You should get your PhD and do research in this!" So, Teresa Hardy did, and two and a half years later, she has received the Alberta Innovates - Health Solutions (AIHS) Clinician Fellowship.

With up to three years of funding, the prestigious award will support the speech-language pathologist in completing her PhD studies at the University of Alberta's Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine in the area of communication feminization. Hardy also hopes to establish a research program in voice at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital.

"Teresa is such a bright and productive clinician with a great publication record, which is remarkable given full-time clinical commitments," said Carol Boliek, PhD, one of Hardy's supervisors in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD). "I am so proud to have her as a clinician scientist in our program - it's not an easy path, but it's a rewarding one!" Jana Rieger, PhD, is Hardy's other supervisor.

The Department of CSD boasts three clinician scientists: Brea Chouinard, Gabriela Constantinescu and Teresa Hardy. Clinician scientists are professionals in the clinic, "master clinicians," who see a need among their practice to further research in order to develop better treatment and clinical practices.

Generally speaking for health-care professionals, it is rather difficult to go back to school after working full-time in a clinical setting. After completing her Master's in Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Alberta in 2004, Hardy worked eight years as a speech-language pathologist (SLP) at the Grey Nuns Hospital and Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital.

As an SLP working with voice, Hardy saw a need in her clients to study voice, speech and gestures, and inform treatment for transgender individuals, specifically male-to-female.

"There is a lack of literature in this area of research," said Hardy. "How we stand and how we gesture are important aspects of communication. My research will focus on voice, mannerisms and other aspects of communication."

"This is what clinical research and knowledge translation is all about," said Boliek. "It's finding the needs among the community, asking the right questions, designing and implementing studies to answer them, and bringing those research findings back to the community to benefit the clients."

As a researcher and speech-language pathologist, work-life balance is always a bit of a challenge for Hardy, but she loves what she's doing. "As a clinician scientist, I'm doing research that is going to directly impact the clients I work with, and that makes it very rewarding."


The Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Alberta

As the only free-standing faculty of rehabilitation medicine in North America, the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine's vision is to be at the forefront of knowledge generation and scholarship in rehabilitation. Through excellent teaching, research and service to the community, the Faculty is committed to enhancing quality of life, promoting participation and autonomy, and improving function for citizens in Alberta and beyond.

A research leader in musculoskeletal health, spinal cord injuries, common spinal disorders (back pain), seniors and dementia and speech-language disorders, the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine aims to inspire the realization of the full potential of individuals, families and communities. The three departments, Occupational Therapy (OT), Physical Therapy (PT) and Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) offer professional entry programs. The Faculty offers thesis-based MSc and PhD programs in Rehabilitation Science, attracting students from a variety of disciplines including OT, PT, SLP, psychology, physical education, medicine and engineering.