SSC Year In Review – 2016

The SSC team had a whirlwind 2016, from seasoned members conducting and presenting research at a variety of venues to fresh faces joining the tribe. Here, please enjoy a little stroll down memory lane as we revisit some of the milestones and way posts that contributed to our success this past year and guide our path as we march confidently and curiously into 2017. Thank you for joining us on this journey. We hope you continue to support and encourage our efforts.

Fearless Leaders


Dr. Ianessa Humbert and Dr. Emily Plowman congregated with clinicians from Gainesville, Florida to Alexandria, Virginia this past year in the ever-evolving course, Critical Thinking in Dysphagia Management – Blazing a New Clinical Trail. Their engaging style sparked conversation and thought regarding a range of topics from normal swallowing to clinical decision making in a changing health care climate. The two-day course includes lecture-based and hands-on experiences, with moving patient stories and illuminating statistics alike. In 2017, they look forward to the next CTDM in Boston.


Dr. Humbert’s education surrounding swallowing is welcome gospel to those of us “in the know”, but her advocacy importantly extends to allied health and medical professionals. In a talk entitled “What Everyone Needs to Know about Dysphagia”, she used salient and often humorous metaphors to drive home her message about swallowologists’ access to and reliance on instrumental assessments to stop “swallow phrenology”. Though with ranging levels of exposure and experience in the area, attendees at UF nodded along and contributed anecdotes as Dr. Humbert gave encouragement to these related professionals to support speech-language pathologists and our push for instrumentation.


At the first annual Community Focus Symposium held by the University of Florida’s Center for Neurogenics, Dr. Plowman was an invited faculty speaker who presented “Just Do It”, a presentation about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and the role of exercise in supporting swallowing and airway protection in individuals with this neurologic disease. Her passion for this patient population was palpable to all in attendance and is available to all to revisit here; Dr. Plowman’s talk begins at 1:14:00.




In December, swallowing experts from all over the continent showed up to the University of Florida “Swamp” for a two-day, intensive Swallowing Think Tank, the first of its kind. The brain-child of Drs. Humbert and Plowman, clinicians, researchers, patients, and interdisciplinary experts joined forces to tackle important questions facing the field of deglutition. The experts were introspective, critical, and also optimistic about the difficult topics raised within the conversational format. In concert with this landmark event, Drs. Humbert and Plowman were featured by the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions to advocate for our field and their research.

The Next Generation


At the same Community Focus Symposium mentioned above, second-year doctoral student Raele Robison presented The Impact of Lingual Resistance Training in Two Patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. The research presented was guided by Dr. Plowman and was contributed to by SSC collaborators Catriona Steele, PhD, CCC-SLP, Joy Gaziano, MA, CCC-SLP, and fellow doctoral student Lauren Tabor.




The UF Rehabilitation Science program featured third-year doctoral student Lauren Tabor in their Student Spotlight, highlighting her research interests and publications as part of the Neuromotor Speech and Swallowing Restoration laboratory and the Swallowing Systems Core.





The SSC welcomed its newest doctoral student, Michele Singer, mentored by Dr. Humbert. She began her research at the University of Florida with an unique collaboration with the Department of Applied Physiology and Kinesiology under Dr. Demetra Christou, running all participants for the study in a matter of months. This is the type of interdisciplinary effort that makes the Rehabilitation Sciences program at UF a unique experience for those interested in swallowing, even those with thirteen years of clinical experience, like Michele!



Since its inception in February, the Down the Hatch podcast published four episodes in 2016, with doctoral student Alicia Vose and her mentor Dr. Humbert establishing a lively repartee as the standard for the series which combines clinical experience, research, anecdotes, and metaphors to tackle various topics in the field of swallowing.




Alicia and Lauren took an opportunity to present, with their watchful mentors in attendance, at the Respiratory Social and Science event, a regular meeting of minds interested in respiration and airway protection, a rich area for those interested in swallowing. Their talk centered on “Neurophysiology of the Respiratory-Swallow Relationship: Clinical Implications”. Following Alicia and Lauren’s presentation, master’s degree candidate Jessica Zipper, whose thesis project is supervised by Dr. Karen Hegland, associate professor and leader of the Upper Airway Dysfunction laboratory, presented information about cough from her thesis project.


At Home and Abroad


The Swallowing Systems Core was enriched in 2016 by the presence of Dr. Renata Guedes, visiting post-doctoral scholar from the A. C. Camargo Cancer Center in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Dr. Guedes developed her study in collaboration with Dr. Humbert and ran all participants in record time. In early 2017, Dr. Guedes is back in Sao Paolo, but will be stateside again in March, presenting at the Dysphagia Research Society’s Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon.




In October, the European Society for Swallowing Disorders saw a contingent of SSC members in Milan, Italy. Dr. Plowman, Dr. Guedes, Lauren, Alicia, and master’s degree candidate Kirstyn Sunday made the trip memorable by taking in both the science and the scenery. Dr. Plowman presented on Rehabilitation in ALS: Tracheotomy and Gastrostomy, Treatment Planning for Impaired Hyoid Elevation, and Improving Airway Defense Mechanisms in Dysphagia Management. In addition, Kirstyn presented Swallowing Frozen and Mixed Bolus Consistencies: Kinematics in Young and Older Healthy Adults. Lab members had just enough time to snap a photo with collaborator Dr. Catriona Steele!


Masters in the Making


In May, National Stroke Awareness month, the UF Health Shands Rehabilitation Hospital hosted its fifth annual Stroke Fair. The SSC was represented with an interactive booth, displaying fluoroscopic imagery and an array of resources for patients. Master’s candidates Ara Tolar and Laura Yadon were available to provide answers and refer interested individuals to learn more about research for post-stroke patients.



Jessica Zipper presented her thesis data at the Medical SLP Rounds in December on the UF campus. Laboratory members are strongly encouraged to take such opportunities to describe their work to varied audiences, both to gain experience with presentations, to incorporate new perspectives, and to broaden exposure of new findings to practicing clinicians.




As a companion piece to a Down the Hatch podcast episode featuring Drs. Hegland, Humbert, and Plowman, master’s level student Sara Kesneck wrote a blog post for Parkinson.Org entitled The Expert Care Experience: Speech, Swallowing, and Parkinson’s. She provides clear and useful information for individuals with PD and their caregivers, importantly helping to set expectations and refer to further resources.



Undergraduate thesis student Karly Johnson worked with Dr. Humbert to design a survey for speech-language pathologists in the field of swallowing. Thanks to the use of social media, Karly reached hundreds of respondents quickly and efficiently. Survey says, we greatly look forward to reading her results soon!


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