Advancing speech-language pathology with an ‘open mind and humble attitude’

Convocation Feature: Q&A with Grace Lee, ‘20 MScSLP

Rehab Med Communications - 10 June 2020

Why did you choose to study speech-language pathology?
I wanted become a speech-language pathologist because I loved how our roles allow us to meet people where they are at in their therapy journey - whether it be working with an adult who has lost their ability to speak due to a stroke, or supporting a parent of a child who has difficulty expressing their thoughts or challenges with swallowing milk. 

Why did you choose the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine?
As an undergraduate student, I had the opportunity to do a research project with Dr. Esther Kim at the University of Alberta and I knew that I wanted to continue doing research with her. I had also heard about the great practical components of the program and the amazing professors, so the University of Alberta was a natural choice! 

What was your time like as the president of the Rehabilitation Medicine Students’ Association (RMSA)?
I loved being involved and active in the Rehabilitation Medicine community. I enjoyed collaborating with other like-minded peers from the different programs to improve the student experience. Being on council helped me further develop my leadership, advocacy, communication and management skills. I learnt so much from my RMSA team members and I treasure the interdisciplinary relationships we built! 

What is one of your fondest memories during your time in the program?
Defending my thesis! I explored the effects of brain stimulation (transcranial direct stimulation) combined with reading treatment for adults with aphasia. I was honoured and proud to share insight from my research that could move the field of speech-language pathology forward. During the questioning period, it was exhilarating to have an intellectual and productive conversation with my supervisory committee about my areas of passion. 

I also had an internship with the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research to explore the mental health of graduate students at the University of Alberta. I valued gaining practical experience and skills in areas that were not directly related to speech-language pathology. It was fascinating to hear from the chairs, deans and administrative staff from other faculties, as well as directors of programs such as the University of Alberta’s Career Centre and Food Bank about their perspectives towards graduate student mental health. 

What did you do during your work placements?
My first placement was working with preschool and school-aged children to develop their speech and language skills. In my second placement, I provided therapy to adults who had aphasia, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and other neurodegenerative disorders. My last placement was at the Stollery Children’s Hospital. There I worked with children who had cleft lip and palates, and children who were on tube feeds with varying oral feeding abilities.

What are you doing now?
I’m working as a speech-language pathologist with Alberta Health Services. These past few months have definitely been interesting as we’ve been redeployed to help with swabbing at the COVID-19 assessment clinics. Swabbing as part of a pandemic response was not exactly what I envisioned when I chose to study speech-language pathology. However, I am glad we can apply our extensive knowledge of oral anatomy and be a part of the public health response at this time! 

What does the future hold for you? What are your long-term goals and aspirations?
I’m constantly reminded of how much more there is to learn and gain experience with. There are so many areas of speech-language pathology that interest me - from adult aphasia, to early intervention and parent coaching, to feeding and swallowing. My goal is just to continue learning and exploring with an open mind and humble attitude. I would also love to do more research - there are so many questions and areas that I want to investigate!