November 1, 2013 Columns

First Person on the Last Page: East Meets West

A journey that started in India finds purpose in the United States. And it isn’t over yet.

Rinki Varindani, MS, CCC-SLP

Albert Schweitzer once said, "Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful." No other quote has had a greater impact on my life. And I want to share why.

I was born and brought up in the cosmopolitan city of Mumbai, India, where I completed my undergraduate degree in audiology and speech-language pathology at the Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped. Little known to most people in the West, speech-language pathology in India is a field still in its infancy. In a country with a population of 1.22 billion, the number of speech-language pathologists in India is barely 2,000. Needless to say, millions of people in India, across the lifespan, suffer from hearing and communication disorders and are just not getting the services they need.

Growing up, I was among the majority of Indian people who had never heard the words "speech-language pathology" in my life. That changed in 2005, when I was fortunate enough to visit the United States and was introduced to the field through a cousin of mine who has cerebral palsy. That was the beginning of the longstanding affair between me and the field.

I firmly believe that the training I received in the East humbled me, broadened my perspective and equipped me with a unique outlook as a clinician. I worked with people speaking multiple languages and coming from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Most often, the treatment lay not in remediating the problem, but in counseling the patients and families regarding the need for services.

Due to the dearth of specialized graduate courses in India, I decided to pursue my higher studies abroad. In 2009, I was accepted into one of America's best graduate programs in communication sciences and disorders at the distinguished University of Texas-Dallas Callier Center. That was the turning point in my journey as an SLP. I was always passionate, but I had started to lose the spark that made me want to be an SLP in the first place. I needed something to re-ignite it. Three and a half years later, I look back and realize just how much being an SLP in the West has changed my life. It was heartening for me to see how SLPs are respected in the United States, how their skills are valued and their services considered indispensable. It is here that I learned the significance of the term "evidence-based practice." Studying and training here, gaining knowledge that I could only have dreamed of back home, and getting the chance to specialize in medical speech-language pathology renewed that spark in me, which is now brighter than ever!

My overarching goal is to start a neuro-rehab program for adults with communication and cognitive impairments and a dysphagia clinic in India. I hope to amass all that I learn as an SLP in this part of the world, carry it forward and use that knowledge for a higher purpose in a part of the world where millions need it. I am so thankful for having had the opportunity to learn and practice in this wonderful country. Being an SLP in health care settings in the West made me love what I do.

Rinki Varindani, MS, CCC-SLP, a clinician at Select Specialty Hospital in Dallas, blogs at www.rinkislp.com. rinki.varindani@gmail.com

cite as: Varindani, R. (2013, November 01). First Person on the Last Page: East Meets West. The ASHA Leader.

  

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