Speech-language pathology student highlight: Awatef (Tiff) Kabbara

Awatef (Tiff) Kabbara wants to empower her patients to have a better quality of life.

Danica Erickson - 2 May 2024

Awatef (Tiff) KabbaraAfter spending time in the workforce following her graduation from the University of Alberta with a bachelor of arts degree in linguistic studies, Awatef (Tiff) Kabbara returned to her alma mater to pursue a master’s degree in speech-language pathology in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine.

This National Speech and Hearing Month, Kabbara shares her motivation for becoming a speech-language pathologist, how she plans to use her knowledge, and what everyone should know about the work of speech-language pathologists.

What was your undergraduate program? 

I obtained my bachelor of arts with a major in linguistics and a minor in economics. 

When did you know speech-language pathology would be a good career for you?

During the third year of my undergraduate program. I took one linguistics course and I really enjoyed it. I was also trying to find a career that would allow me to have a good work-life balance, build connections with people and do meaningful work. Speech-language pathology checked all those boxes off for me. 

I understand you have a desire to serve your community with your training. Was this because of a particular incident or experience?

My husband played a significant role; he introduced me to the idea of studying speech-langauge pathology. He and his brothers had first-hand experience working with a speech-language pathologist as children. I was amazed to learn the profound impact that experience had on their lives. That was when I decided that speech-language pathology offered the kind of fulfilling career I wanted to have. 

How do you hope to serve your community with your training and education?

As I volunteered throughout my graduate studies, I witnessed a great demand for speech-language pathology services in underserved communities and among disadvantaged populations. I hope to help these populations and facilitate easier access to these essential services.

What impact do you want your future work to have on the clients you work with?

I want to make a difference in my clients’ lives by providing a safe, welcoming practice for people of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. 

Ultimately, I want my future work to improve my clients' quality of life and empower them to feel confident in their abilities, whether that means helping clients communicate to express their needs and wants, enhancing their swallow function or improving their fluency.

What do you want people to understand about SLP?  

I think there is a misconception that speech-language pathologists work only on speech and language but the profession encompasses so much more. We have a broad range of roles and responsibilities including voice and resonance therapy, parent and family education, speech diagnosis, communication and swallowing disorder treatments and more.

We also have the opportunity to work with adult and pediatric populations in different settings such as preschools, schools, cleft lip and palate clinics, community clinics, hospitals, neonatal intensive care units, cancer institutes, stroke and surgery rehabilitation services, private practice and long-term care facilities. There is so much opportunity. 

Do you have any advice for people considering the speech-language pathology program? 

First, be a sponge: ask questions and absorb all the information you can. Secondly, if you have a chance to shadow a speech-language pathologist, do it. It's an amazing learning opportunity and a snapshot of what a career in speech-language pathology can be like. Finally, remember that feeling like an imposter is normal. We all have that feeling, but you ARE good enough. 

What’s next for you after you finish your degree?

I’m going to do some travelling, take a long overdue rest and then, hopefully, begin working in the field by early fall.