Alumnus Christopher McCormick ’18 jokes that his love of eating, drinking, and talking led to his career choice as a speech-language pathologist, “a career focused on improving patients’ abilities to eat, drink, and talk.” Since he earned his master’s degree at Worcester State, he has worked in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and academic universities. Today he is a speech-language pathologist at an inner city acute care children’s hospital in Providence, RI.
“This week I treated a premature baby struggling to drink, a child with a gunshot wound to the head having difficulty communicating with family and friends, and a young adult with struggles to move her tongue to eat her favorite food following removal of a brainstem tumor,” McCormick said during a recent visit back to campus. “Although these patient scenarios can sound disheartening, I can tell you from first-hand experience the magic of having a patient eat their favorite meal or communicate a simple message such as ‘I love you’ following an unexpected medical event is worth more than words can express.”
McCormick and fellow alumna Merrisa Murtha ’06 recently shared their professional journeys at Worcester State during the 50th anniversary of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, which provided them with the skills, knowledge, and support to pursue their careers. The Sept. 22 celebration brought together faculty, university leaders, and alumni to celebrate the quality of the department’s education and all the ways it gives back to the community through direct services and through its graduates now working with patients.
In his role as an educator of future speech-language pathologists, McCormick says the rewards are great. “I can share the only happiness stronger than working directly with patients and families is knowing the education you share will impact hundreds of thousands of patients and families through the students you teach. I cannot express my thankfulness for what Worcester State’s Communication Sciences and Disorders program has provided me to share with not only my patients and families, but students as well.”
Merrisa Murtha, a clinical audiologist in Worcester State’s Speech-Language-Hearing Center, also leads the department’s hearing screening practicum, working with graduate students to provide hearing screenings to approximately 2,500 school age children each semester in the greater Worcester community.
“As you can tell from that population served and number of students we provide free hearing healthcare to, Worcester State’s Communication Sciences and Disorders program has never been afraid of doing the work,” Murtha said. “Not only does the program provide this important hearing healthcare in the schools, Worcester State has allowed for us at the Speech-Language-Hearing Center to continue to see these patients free of charge for a full audiological workup and follow-up services. Worcester State has recognized the department and the Speech-Language-Hearing Center as an important health service that has bridged the financial gaps of the healthcare system here on campus for decades.”
The combination of educational and clinical opportunities through the Speech-Language-Hearing Center is what makes the program unique, Murtha said.
“As a first-generation college student entering this program, it was clear to me that the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department understood 20 years ago what we know now—education is paramount, but it doesn’t stop in the classroom,” Murtha said. “Real world carryover is what will keep that student in the class and reading that text. They are able to see the SLP and audiologist providing real world services, therapies, and healthcare right here in the department with a working clinic right here on campus.”
Top photo: Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Department of Communication and Sciences Disorders were Ann T. Veneziano-Korzec, director of the Speech-Language-Hearing Center, alumni Christoper McCormick and Merrisa Murtha, and professor Kristina Curro. Photos by Matt Wright.
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