More than 200 speech-language pathologists converged upon Disney World over President's Day weekend to attend the first annual conference developed specifically for clinicians who work in health care settings. ASHA Health Care 2004: Dysphagia in Adults and Children brought together an outstanding faculty of top researchers and clinicians in the area of dysphagia to present courses on topics related to swallowing assessment and treatment across the age continuum.
Participants chose courses from three tracks-adult, pediatric, and FEES (Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing). The adult track included courses on degenerative diseases, improving feeding compliance, advocacy, videofluoroscopy, and esophageal swallowing disorders from presenters Kathryn Yorkston, Cathy Pelletier, Nancy Swigert, Paula Sullivan, and Bonnie Martin-Harris, respectively.
The pediatric track offered courses on behavioral feeding problems, the SLP's role in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), clinical and instrumental assessment, and management of children with tracheostomies from Justine Joan Sheppard, Joan Arvedson, Maureen Lefton-Greif, and Suzanne Abraham, respectively. Susan Langmore conducted a FEES Institute, which included a hands-on session(see photo at right). In addition, a roundtable luncheon provided participants the opportunity to interact with the faculty and informally discuss issues of interest or concern.
During the opening plenary, Paula Sullivan, coordinator of Special Interest Division 13, Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders, discussed current issues, challenges, and controversies. She emphasized that SLPs must demonstrate the value of the services they provide through outcomes and evidence-based practice. The importance of advocating for the role of the SLP in swallowing and for demonstrating the value of speech-language pathology services is evident in the challenges that SLPs face, Sullivan said. These challenges include rate changes in dysphagia codes in recent years, encroachment of other professionals into the area of swallowing management, and the emphasis on new treatment techniques that may be lucrative to a practitioner or facility, but have little or no evidence to support their use. Sullivan challenged participants to step up their advocacy and demonstrate the value of services each clinician provides every day.
Jeri Logemann closed the conference with an energetic and thought-provoking presentation on "Current Research and the Future of Dysphagia Practice." Logemann discussed where the field of swallowing has come from, its current status, and where it is headed. She emphasized again the need for evidence to support the intervention techniques being used by SLPs and the critical evaluation of research to make the best decisions regarding management options.
In addition to the cutting-edge presentations, this conference gave participants access to the steering committee of Special Interest Division 13. Participants expressed strong interest in the Specialty Recognition Program and received materials to review.
Plans are already underway for the 2005 Health Care conference. For more information, contact Janet Brown, director of health care services, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Amy Hasselkus, associate director of health care services, at email@example.com. Visit the Health Care Conference section for more information.