"I felt like I was given a new chance at life"

For 15 years, Colette Fournier has been giving back to the program that led her on the path to success

Amanda McCarthy - 13 December 2018

For many years, Colette Fournier struggled with speech issues. She brought her stutter with her to elementary, junior high and high school, and it clung to her for two years during university.

But now, her struggle is just a distant memory. Her new life as a client-turned-donor, a tribute to the hardships she overcame with the help of the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR).

"I’m very passionate about ISTAR due to the huge impact it has had on my life. I wanted to give back to the program that was such a critical part of my story."

Her biggest challenge began when she was offered and accepted a position with the RCMP in Regina, Saskatchewan. With her career on the line, she decided enough was enough.

"My speech controlled me—I had absolutely no control over it. As a result, I was very self-conscious for all of my school years," Fournier explained. "I ran into some fluency difficulty during my RCMP training program in Regina. My speech was identified as a red flag and I feared it would hold me back from graduating."

Although the stutter was uncomfortable and often times stressful, she never expected it to have such a severe impact on her professional life.

That’s when she decided to seek help from a speech-language pathologist, who recommended her to ISTAR.

"I entered the intensive program at ISTAR and it was life changing," said Fournier. "I can now communicate with the knowledge and skills to control my speech in most situations."

Fournier continued to use her skills for three years while in the RCMP, but ultimately moved on to pursue her dream job—something she could finally do now that she had the confidence to use her voice.

In 1997, she was accepted into the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine and completed her medical degree in 2001. She went on to pursue her family medicine residency in 2003, followed by emergency medicine in 2010.

"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I would not be able to practice as a physician without my ISTAR training."

Now that Fournier is no longer controlled by her disfluency, she wants to make sure that others who may be going through the same thing she went through are able to get the treatment they need—something she has been doing for the past 15 years.

"I started donating to ISTAR on a monthly basis once I was working as a full-time physician. I believe everyone who stutters should be given the opportunity to receive treatment and find their voice without financial barriers."

She hopes that others will follow in her footsteps and donate to the programs, whether it be financial or through the gift of time.

"I would encourage anyone who is able to donate to ISTAR. Many stutterers suffer in silence. They deserve to be heard."

Interested in giving the gift of speech this holiday season? Donate to ISTAR by visiting istar.ualberta.ca.