Speech-Language Pathology Program Update
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Speech-Language Pathology Program Update

In this podcast, we'll be catching up with Robert Serianni, MS, CCC-SLP, FNAP, about what's new in the program and in the Speech-Language Institute (SLI). Serianni is the chair and program director of the Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) department. He was promoted to chair in March of 2020, but has been with the University since 2014 as the inaugural clinical director. He also serves as an associate professor, having roles teaching and supervising in SLI. 

Q: What is new in the SLP program?

Serianni: We have a lot of new projects that we have gotten to launch in the last couple of months. We are building courses that have lab experiences integrated into them. We know that there are a variety of learners out there, not everybody can sit and listen to a lecture or read a text and absorb the information. Building in patient care and lab experiences as part of the course has been a really nice enhancement to our didactic approach with the SLP curriculum. We are also beginning to add more simulated patient/client experiences as a bridge between the didactic and clinical work. Also, the faculty have been busy recently with grants and research projects, specifically around ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease, as well as childhood apraxia of speech.

Q: What is new at SLI?

SLI entrance doorSerianni: One thing I really like about the program is that there is a seamless interchange between what goes on in the classroom and what goes on in the clinic. We are working with new groups this semester, including local Pre-K Counts, which focuses on early literacy and language skills for some of the youngest students in a local school. We have also partnered with We Rock the Spectrum, a gym that specializes in working with children with autism and their families. A clinical educator will take a group of students out and conduct services at those sites. For example, when we go out to We Rock the Spectrum, we’re partnering with the company and we are doing services for them at that site. The students get an opportunity to get off campus and into the community to begin to see what the profession looks like in the neighborhoods we serve.

That is the hallmark of most of Salus University’s programs, to get our students involved in clinical care from the very beginning. In the SLP program, students start from their very first semester working in our clinical facility (SLI) and our offsite partnerships with the faculty and clinical educators, so they have the opportunity to see the stuff in the classroom come alive in clinical experiences. We have expanded our traumatic brain injury (TBI) and aphasia groups, including a brand new poetry group that meets once a month for individuals who have language deficits following a stroke. We are really excited to bring in some new equipment over the next couple of weeks, including a new portable endoscopic system so that our students can learn how to conduct swallowing evaluations using a small endoscope that's passed through the nose as well as some ultrasound machines. I am not quite sure what we will be doing with that, but I understand that there are some new testing procedures we're going to be able to do around motor speech disorders and speech sound disorders.

Q: Since the SLP program is going through re-accreditation, can you talk about what that means for current and prospective students?

Bob Serianni in the video monitoring roomSerianni: In order to provide educational services, all programs have to be accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation and Audiology and Speech Pathology, commonly noted as the CAA. We have to provide an annual report to them, updating our policies and procedures, making sure that our faculty are in place and that the students are meeting the goals and objectives of the program every few years. In this case, we are in our fifth year of a fully accredited program, so we have to go through our first re-accreditation. This means a group comes from the CAA on campus to interview faculty, students and administrators here at the university, and then they make a report verifying that everything we have put in our self-studies has been demonstrated. That process will happen early in the spring when we have our visitors come on board.

Then we will have our re-accreditation sometime in the summer of 2024, and then we will expect another visit in about seven years. They go in approximately seven-year cycles. It's actually a really exciting time to be on the Elkins Park, Pennsylvania campus because we get to do a lot of bragging about the interesting experiences our students get, the deep and meaningful work our clinic does in our communities, and the important research that comes out of our program. The report is essentially showing evidence that we are doing all the things that we said we are doing, and then the site visit is the verification of that. Ultimately the students want a strongly accredited program because it's going to validate the program's ability to make sure that they become competent, confident speech pathologists upon graduation.

Q: What does the merger with Drexel mean for the SLP program?

Serianni: Our understanding at this point is that there is not going to be any day-to-day differences in how we manage the programs here at Salus. Our name might change, but we do not think that will have any impact on our curriculum and the programs we are aligned with. We can only really see the benefits for students and faculty being part of a larger institution, but we don't expect the program to change much at all, including our location in the short term.

Cristo Rey SLI screeningsQ: Are there any other projects the SLP program is involved in?

Serianni: We have some fun stuff coming up. We are planning an international service trip, and have partnered with a group called Therapy Abroad. They're a long-term provider of travel services for therapy students, and they have a really nice sustainability attitude with the way they approach having students travel and experience culture and clinical services. They are partnering with a new Ministry of Education on the Island of Dominica. We are really excited to hopefully do some traveling in August. We are also building a neat relationship with the Philly Goat Project. One of our faculty members, who's an expert in augmentative communication and autism, is working with the farm that's local to Salus here in Philadelphia, and how do we engage all types of children in experiences with the Philly Goat Project. We are also working with an international partner in Brazil to offer a speech pathologist in that country enhanced learning around augmentative and alternative communication. So as much as Salus is a small suburban Philadelphia institution, we really are excited about our global expansion with service trips and education again locally and abroad.

For more information about the Speech-Language Pathology program, visit salus.edu/slp.

*All accreditation pending approval by the respective accrediting bodies