The Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine remembers Amber Shurb-Beach (SLP '16)

Amber's friends, family and the speech-language pathology class of 2016 are organizing a donation to support the Augmentative and Alternative Communication Camp in her memory

Communications - 07 March 2017

In early January, the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine received the sad news that recent speech-language pathology graduate, Amber Shurb-Beach, passed away suddenly on Christmas Eve, shortly after being diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive auto-immune disease.

In Amber's honour, her classmates, instructors, family and friends have raised $3,135 and will be making a donation in her name to the March of Dimes Canada in support of the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Camp. This annual camp is co-hosted by the University of Alberta's Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and allows children who use AAC devices to replace speech or writing and their families to take part in various activities such as arts and crafts, music, campfires and swimming, and to build new friendships and support networks.

"Between completing her undergraduate and master's degrees, Amber worked as an aid with physically and intellectually disabled children. Through this, she met a very bright young client facing cerebral palsy and quadriplegia, who used an augmentative and alternative communication device. Amber shared a very special bond with this client, and was determined to do everything she could to master the device and improve her ability to support communication," her family explained why AAC Camp was so close to Amber's heart. "Through this experience, Amber discovered that not only was the technology dated for these devices, they were also extremely expensive and often not covered by insurance. The more she worked with the device, the more she became determined to do something in her professional life to make a difference in this area. She wanted the devices and training to be more accessible and affordable to those who needed them most, especially kids.

This conviction was rooted in a belief that no matter who you were, or what physical challenges you faced, you deserved the right to express yourself in your own unique way. While her life's work was cut short by her unexpected passing, Amber's dreams will undoubtedly live on in those who seek to make a difference in the lives of those who face challenges in speech and language, especially in the lives of those who use augmentative and alternative communication devices."

Amber's graduation photo (supplied)

Amber's parents Donna and Jamie Beach, her sister Shantel Jordison and her fiancé Rob Chapman shared what Amber's time spent studying at the University of Alberta meant to her: "A tenacious go-getter and relentless over-achiever, Amber reveled in her studies at the University of Alberta and after completing her Master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology at the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, she landed her dream job as a full-time speech-language pathologist with Alberta Health Services Home Care, working with adults and seniors in Calgary. She made her mark on the world in a lasting way that few people come to do at such a young age, and her studies at the University of Alberta helped equip her with the knowledge and skills to be successful in the career that she was so proud of."

Their loss is also keenly felt by her classmates, friends, instructors and the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine family. Together, we remember a champion for speech-language pathology and rehabilitation:

Amber was a beautiful, intelligent and compassionate person and an amazing friend. We spent many long hours together during our time at the University of Alberta. Whether we were working on class assignments, trying to sort through mountains of data for our master's project, attending yoga class, grabbing a coffee or taking a well-deserved study break at the mall, everything was more fun when Amber was around. Towards the end of our first semester I remember a conversation that we had about our plans for the upcoming semester. Amber said to me, 'I'm going to be a better person,' and I said, 'Oh really, how?' Her reply was, 'I'm going to study more.' We both laughed at this comment but it truly conveys her focus, dedication and passion for the field of speech-language pathology. I often remember this conversation whenever I feel my motivation beginning to wane or after a particularly hard day at work. It reminds me of Amber's unstoppable spirit, enthusiasm and the level of commitment with which she approached everything that she did.

Jessica Clarke, SLP '16
Amber's classmate and friend

It was a true pleasure to be Amber's primary preceptor during her final clinical placement (May - August 2016). When I first met Amber, I was struck by how physically petite she was. What I soon learned was that her body was small but her heart was huge and her smile could fill a room. Amber's final placement was in continuing care in the Calgary Zone of Alberta Health Services (AHS). She had great instincts and top-notch observation and documentation skills. Amber easily gained rapport with the residents and families she met, as well as with the many allied health and nursing team members she collaborated with from AHS and the private care facilities. I lost track of how many times people asked me, 'Is there a way we can keep her when she graduates?' Amber was a keeper for sure, someone we all could benefit from having as a colleague and as a friend. We will keep Amber and her family in our hearts for always.

Megan Terrill, R.SLP (BEd '97, MScSLP '99)
Provincial Rehabilitation-Senior Practice Consultant
Allied Health Professional Practice & Education, Red Deer, AB

I had the pleasure of teaching Amber in the first term of her graduate program and supervising her capstone research project in child language. Amber was a top student in a class of high achievers, always well-prepared, thorough and professional. I often referred to Amber (and her research partner, Jessica) as my "dream team" - brilliant and capable, they worked incredibly well together. Amber demonstrated flexibility and an openness to taking on new challenges, including multiple meetings with at least three different statistical consultants, each of whom had different opinions on how to analyze the data. Many students would have crumbled at that point, but Amber's positive outlook and dedication to excellence were infectious and her smile never faded.

Although Amber didn't have the opportunity to participate in AAC Camp Alberta (we didn't start planning for the first camp until after she had completed the first year of her program), she would have loved it! We are so honoured that Amber's memorial fund will go to support children and families who attend the camp and give other students the opportunity to experience working with this very special population.

Karen Pollock, Ph.D., R.SLP
Professor and Chair, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders

To contribute to the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Camp in Amber's memory, online donations can be made to March of Dimes Canada at Please select the "Tribute - In Memory" option and choose "AAC Camp Alberta" in the drop-down menu. The site automatically generates charitable receipts.