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Overseas Speech-Language Pathology Program Enriches Understanding of SLP in Other Cultures

a group of SLP students with Luis F. Riquelme, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, BCS-S

As four students (Nadia Ashour, third from left, Avery Dakin, fourth from left, Shannon Stocks, second from left, and Katherine Undly, second from right) in the speech-language pathology (SLP) program in the School of Health Sciences and Practice, embark on their last year of study, they take with them the knowledge and reflect on the experience they gained as the pilots of the first NYMC overseas speech-language pathology program. Led by Luis F. Riquelme, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, BCS-S, far right, associate professor of speech-language pathology and director of the post-graduate Certificate Program in Pediatric Dysphagia, the cross-cultural program was aimed at providing a unique opportunity for SLP students to understand the state of their profession outside of the U.S. mainland. The goal: to enrich their understanding of how culture, language and perception of health care can affect their practice—all while further developing their clinical skills.

The overseas program was a collaboration between NYMC students and the Universidad del Turabo (UT) students and faculty. The program has been in development for quite some time and in collaboration with Maria Centeno, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, far left, chair of SLP at UT. According to Dr. Riquelme, “The uniqueness of this program in Puerto Rico is that it has a direct purpose for our students and for those on the island.” Dr. Riquelme further explains, “Specifically, medical SLP is not well-developed in Puerto Rico. Our collaboration with UT at the Hospital Menonita, Caguas, allowed us to expose UT students and faculty to current practice patterns and introduce assessment tools not regularly available. This collaboration will continue, as we move our profession forward on the island, while exposing our own NYMC students to all the variables of culture, language and program development.”

Ms. Dakin jumped at the chance to practice her Spanish in a medical setting while learning about the student experience in Puerto Rico. “The trip was a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with students and faculty at Universidad del Turabo, gain new perspectives and experience Puerto Rican culture," she explains.

Ms. Ashour, who plans to practice overseas after she graduates, says the overseas program was invaluable. “I was interested to learn more about how our profession is different when applied in a variety of cultures. What I learned was that it is not only different in a variety of settings such as schools, hospitals or private practices, but also within each setting. You can see how our decisions as SLPs are different when the culture is different,” she explains. “I am going to work in a tertiary care hospital and apply what I learned to help as many patients as I can, while [working to] add to the available research in our profession.”