Over the next few months, I will be posting a series of articles interviewing Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) in various settings.

Katie Smead is a semi-retired SLP who currently owns her own practice.  What she didn’t state in the interview is that she is also the creator of some very innovative tools for dysphagia which you can find here.

Using her experience with the area of dysphagia (swallowing impairment) and evidence based practice, Katie has developed multiple tools at an affordable cost to assist Speech Language Pathologists in the treatment of dysphagia, in addition to providing journal articles to support clinical use of these tools for a variety of deficits.

Q:  How did you become an SLP?

A:  I found this field when I was a sophomore in college.  I had a roommate at Indiana University who was able to use ventricular voice and they were studying her at the medical school in Indianapolis. I had a car so I drove her up there for her research appointments. It was so interesting that I got hooked and changed majors to speech pathology.
Q:  In what setting are you currently working?
A:  I own an outpatient rehab agency and a outpatient pediatric practice. I employ 14 individuals including SLPs, OTs and PTs.   Currently I specialize in voice and swallowing although I have worked with kids, laryngectomy patients with TEP, cleft palate and all types of patients. I have been in private practice in Pensacola Fl since 1986 and had 10 years prior experience in a rehab hospital in California. As part of my private practice, I had an acute care hospital contract for 15 years where I treated stroke, swallowing and head and neck cancer. I also did all MBS studies for inpatients and outpatients.
Q:  Describe a typical day in your setting.
A:  My typical day now is seeing adults three mornings a week and managing the practice. I am semi-retired so I am able to tailor my caseload and hours.
Q:  What area of speech language pathology most interests you?
A:  Dysphagia is my favorite area and this includes patients with head and neck cancers, Parkinson disease and stroke. Designing treatments specific to  a patients unique symptoms and home programs that augment the goals of care are my passion.
Q:  What advice would you give someone just starting in the field?
A:  My advice to someone starting the field is get a varied clinical experience. We usually like to see patients we are most familiar with… However, your skills and interests will only be sharpened by working in a setting that offers treatment for adults and children. Furthermore, once you are practicing, stay at the setting at least five years because changing jobs frequently slows the speed of your growth. Most importantly, stay current. Read the research and apply what you learn. This field is a gift to those who enjoy problem solving and helping people. Never take a job for the money, you’ll be miserable and never want to work for less even though the experience may be the most exciting.