Reflecting on 2017 – SSC Retrospective

Hello again, SSC friends and family! The end of the year is a great time to look back on all of the growth, learning, and accomplishments we have collaboratively and individually achieved. The SSC continues its tradition of collecting our memories and milestones into one document that is by no means comprehensive, but is certainly a celebration of the year gone by. We are grateful for your continued support and encouragement and hope that you will continue to check in regularly with us in 2018.

Another year
Another end
Another moment spent with friends
Seeking knowledge, seeking truth
Swallowing is our pursuit
To teach and serve
To grow and change
An end approaches and feels strange
For we press on as pages turn
Forever steadfast
Here to learn

Welcome and Thank You
Thank you so much for your support of the Swallowing Systems Core, the joint lab of Drs. Ianessa Humbert and Emily Plowman. We appreciate your engagement on our site and your interest in our research. Please join us in a review of the past year, 2017, in which we took great strides forward. Let’s wrap up by looking back. See you next year!

Down the Hatch
Down the Hatch, the Swallowing Podcast hosted by Dr. Ianessa Humbert and her doctoral student and fellow SLP, Alicia Vose, ended the year with fourteen regular episodes and one bonus episode presented by Facebook Live with special guest Vince Clark, pictured left. Topics this year included e-stim, expiratory muscle strength training, and clinical swallowing examinations. Guest speakers also included Dr. Catriona Steele, doctoral candidate and SLP Lauren Tabor, and Dr. Andrew Lotto. DtH can now be found on SoundCloud and iTunes.

Doctoral Candidate
2017 was a big year for Lauren Tabor, a doctoral candidate under the mentorship of Dr. Emily Plowman. Lauren successfully passed her rigorous qualifying exams this year and is now recognized as a doctoral candidate with an anticipated graduation this upcoming spring. Lauren had a manuscript accepted recently by the journal Neurogastroenterology and Motility. She is making great progress on her dissertation and we wish her all the best in finishing her requirements!

Critical Thinking Globally
Dr. Humbert and Dr. Plowman continue their commitment to bringing evidence-based practice and critical thinking to clinicians everywhere. This year, they completed their fifth full Critical Thinking in Dysphagia Management (CTDM) course in Houston, Texas, hosted by lab collaborator Dr. Kate Hutcheson of MD Anderson Cancer Center (pictured left). An in-person course in Germany was a great complement to the online release of the full CTDM offering, which is accessible everywhere at

Scholarship Shape
As a direct undergraduate-to-doctoral-studies student, Alayna Ernster made a splash by starting off her tenure with the SSC by earning a top award from the Dean of the College of Public Health and Health Professions. Alayna’s undergraduate thesis in cross-systems transfer between the corticobulbar and corticospinal systems will be continued and developed under the mentorship of Dr. Ianessa Humbert. Alayna is pictured with family as she accepts her award from the Dean back in April, 2017.

Science, Engineered
The SSC benefitted greatly in 2017 from the contributions of our laboratory engineer, Alessandra Gallastegui. Alessandra was pivotal in standardizing procedures across studies on both sides of the lab, from equipment calibration to troubleshooting new and more efficient ways of collecting and analyzing data. From excel formulas to MatLab programming, Alessandra’s unique skill set within the lab helped many students to make meaningful progress. She is also the most accomplished baker in the lab whose culinary contributions cannot go unrecognized!

Intercontinental Swallownistas
Lab leaders and jetsetters extraordinaire Dr. Humbert and Dr. Plowman flew around the globe to participate in prestigious conferences this past year. Dr. Plowman was a keynote speaker at Speech Pathology Australia, 2017, while Dr. Humbert presented as a guest speaker at the 2017 Biennial Conference organized by the Irish Association of Speech & Language Therapist (IASLT) in Dublin, Ireland. They also made stops around the United States for various conferences.

Fellow in Florida
Wendy Liang, Dr. Humbert’s clinical fellow, joined the SSC in the fall and has been an instrumental part of the targeted biofeedback study which she runs with Dr. Humbert and Alicia Vose, with assistance from master’s student Allison Walters. Prior to joining the SSC, Wendy was working on her fellowship in a clinical setting, but had a strong interest in continuing her involvement in research after her graduate experiences.

Study in the Swamp
From the Swallowing Rehabilitation Research Laboratory in Toronto, Canada under the mentorship of lab collaborator Dr. Catriona Steele, doctoral student Ashley Waito has been in Gainesville working on a multi-site study which is a joint effort by Dr. Steele and Dr. Plowman. Part of the data collected will be used for Ashley’s dissertation, which focuses on physiologic flow of liquids used in dysphagia management for patients with ALS.

It’s Great to Coordinate
Dr. Plowman hired clinical research coordinator Kelby Magennis to support the NSSR side of the lab across studies of healthy individuals, people with ALS, folks with Parkinson’s Disease, and those with OPMD. She has contributed heavily to the organization of these studies so that patients and participants are able to get the maximum benefit from visits to our lab. Kelby runs a tight ship and the rest of us are so pleased to have her on board!

Posters with the Most? Hers!
With the 2018 Diversity Day approaching, it is a great time to remember when NSSR lab member and doctoral student Raele Robison won first place for her poster at the 2017 event. Rae also earned recognition and a travel award for a poster she presented at the 2017 Annual Neuroplasticity Symposium. She presented data on ALS at both events, though with different topics. Raele will be working on the Plowman x Steele collaboration in 2018.

Thickened Liquids? Yum!
This year, the SSC participated in the Thickened Liquids Challenge, an event to bring about greater awareness to the invisible disorder of dysphagia. Members of the lab said “bottoms up” to honey-thick Gatorade and challenged other swallowing researchers to do the same. Thickened liquids are often used in clinical treatment of individuals with swallowing disorders, so we took a taste of our field’s own medicine.

Mission: Submissions
2017 was a great year of data collection for doctoral student Alicia Vose, who continued to work clinically and in a research capacity under Dr. Humbert. As a result of this work, she submitted two abstracts that were accepted at the upcoming 2018 Dysphagia Research Society symposium, including Laryngeal Vestibule Airway Protection Patterns (LVAPP): Initial Scale Development and Validation. Her other oral platform concerns visual biofeedback to the benefit of stroke patients and clinicians. Alicia is expected to take her qualifying exams this upcoming spring!

Northward and Upward
Newest doctoral student to the NSSR Jennifer Chapin, under the direction of Dr. Plowman, moved in to the SSC this year after transferring from the University of South Florida. Jen presented a poster at this year’s NEALS conference and has been on-boarded to all of the studies on the NSSR side of the lab. She continues to work at the ALS clinic in Tampa and refers appropriate patients to participate in our studies. Welcome, Jen!

Master Class
The SSC lab saw several transitions from undergraduate to graduate this past year. Allison Walters and Michelle Saade both began their studies as graduate students at UF after working with the SNL and NSSR labs in the past. Allison now helps with the targeted biofeedback study under Dr. Humbert while Michele assists with the respiratory training study under Dr. Plowman. In the past, both Allison and Michele worked on a variety of projects, learning much about the lab before applying to UF. We hope that their lab experiences continue to enrich their minds as they apply what they have learned to class and clinic.

Cheers for Volunteers
The SSC welcomed new volunteers this year as well, including both master’s and undergraduate students. Samantha Mora will likely be working on a thesis under Dr. Humbert moving forward, while Amanda Hartzell has been trained to assist with Dr. Plowman’s studies. Undergraduate volunteers include Audrey Colandreo, Laura Jaramillo, Emma Hicks, Lacey Trevisani, Alyssa McGarity, and Lindsey Watkins. Emma and Lacey are both working on specific projects that will continue in 2018 while the rest of the volunteers continue in existing roles or move forward with training to become even more involved. Thank you all!

Singing Her Praises
Doctoral student Michele Singer has made great progress this past year in setting up her own study with mentor Dr. Humbert. She has also continued to work on her data set from Johns Hopkins, where she continues to work clinically on breaks from her classes, and will be presenting some of her findings at Dysphagia Research Society’s conference in March of 2018. Her unique data set includes pre- and post-op fluoroscopy for lung transplant patients.

Dishin’ on the Transition
Alycia “Aly” Rivet spent 2017 as lab manager for the SSC, under the guidance of both Dr. Humbert and Dr. Plowman. As of January 2018, she will be a doctoral student under the mentorship of Dr. Humbert and lab collaborator Dr. Andrew Lotto. She is thrilled to be taking lessons learned over the past year and a half with her on this exciting journey in the Rehabilitation Sciences program. See Aly at DRS 2018 and around campus as she continues to work on her SSC projects!

An Ode to Carol
In light of Aly’s transition, the SSC would like to welcome Carol Smith as the new lab manager. Carol has worked with the SSC during 2017 as our radiologic technologist during our videofluoroscopic swallow studies as part of research studies throughout the lab. Carol’s addition to the lab means that patients and research participants will have smooth scheduling with an expert in making folks comfortable and safe during swallow studies. This is another amazing way to save time and increase productivity, though Carol will contribute to much more than these studies. We are so excited for her to be with us full time – welcome, Carol!

May the Science be with Her
Wanting to gain more experience with research on swallowing, local speech-language pathologist and UF alum May Smith-Sherry worked with the SSC in 2017 on projects ranging from now-graduated Melissa Miller’s thesis project to learning analysis for videofluoroscopy. She presented at one lab meeting on the topic of the International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative (IDDSI), a project spearheaded by lab collaborator Dr. Catriona Steele. May will continue to work on the NSSR side of the lab in 2018.

Timing Tornado
Arielle Marcus started out in the SSC with a clinical placement under Dr. Humbert, and quickly became ingrained in the world of deglutition. She stayed on with our lab and became trained in timing kinematics of swallowing on videofluoroscopy. She was a juggernaut in completing this type of analysis with doctoral student Alicia Vose. Arielle was often involved in thoughtful conversations while plugging away at data analysis and always has great questions and perspectives! Thanks for all your efforts, Arielle.

Last Hurrah
A host of SSC OGs are moving toward graduation in Spring 2018, but their contributions to the lab should not be forgotten! Former lab manager Kirstyn Sunday will be completing her upcoming medical internship at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, while her classmate Rachel O’Neal finishes working on her master’s thesis under Dr. Plowman. Andrea Siluk helped with loads of studies and analysis on patients with ALS and OPMD. If you look through the SSC post archives, you’ll see mention of poster presentations and other contributions of these research-minded clinicians!

One document could in no way capture all of the phenomenal events that took place in the Swallowing Systems Core; please check out our website at for more posts and to stay updated as we continue to march forward in 2018. We love sharing updates with you and hope to contribute much and more to this upcoming year. Hope is in the science, and our science is in the Swamp. Thank you, and bye for now.

SSC 2017 Reflection

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