Bringing Up CSD Meet your 2014 ASHA president—Elizabeth McCrea Features
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Features  |   January 01, 2014
Bringing Up CSD
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ASHA News & Member Stories / Features
Features   |   January 01, 2014
Bringing Up CSD
The ASHA Leader, January 2014, Vol. 19, 56-58. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR3.19012014.56
The ASHA Leader, January 2014, Vol. 19, 56-58. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR3.19012014.56
Elizabeth McCrea never expected to become a speech-language pathologist when she started her undergraduate years at Indiana University in the early 1960s. She was thinking more along the lines of nursing or, with a stretch, medicine. But when she saw a speech-language pathologist in action, she found her calling.
What followed were her Cs and several years of practice in schools and hospitals. But her heart led her back to the halls of academe, so that she could pass on her passion for the professions—and help cultivate the next crops of communication sciences and disorders professionals. Three years ago, she retired as clinical professor of speech and hearing sciences at Indiana University, after a decades-long career of teaching and clinical education— and research on how to improve the supervision/clinical education process.
She continues her work in clinical education with the externship program at Nova Southeastern University. And she’ll take it to the highest levels of CSD leadership as she takes the reins as ASHA’s 2014 president this month. We talked with her about her plans.
Q Why did you decide to pursue a speech-language pathology career and has your career been what you expected?
When I graduated from high school in the early 1960s and began my college career, I didn’t have a firm sense of exactly what I wanted to do. However, two overarching things I did know were that 1) I wanted to make a difference for others, and 2) I understood early on the value of being able to relate to others and communicate with a variety of folks with different perspectives from mine. My father was a career officer in the Coast Guard, so between kindergarten and the 12th grade, I went to seven different schools—on both coasts, in Alaska, and in Italy at a Department of Defense school with Greek, Italian, French and Turkish students. With all of these cultural and geographical differences in play, it was important for me as a newcomer to be able to make friends, engage others and become part of a community. Communication was an important tool, a life skill for me!
I honestly did not know very much about communication deficits in the context of communication disorders when I began college until I went with a friend, already a decided major in CSD, to observe children who struggled with communication and making themselves understood. This single afternoon’s experience opened up a whole new world for me. Becoming a speech-language pathologist seemed to me to be a wonderful merging of art, science and service. After receiving my bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in the mid-1960s, I worked as a school-based practitioner for a number of years.
Then, soon after my master’s degree from the University of Virginia and earning my CCC, I worked at a children’s hospital in Richmond, Va., and was asked to supervise practicum students from the University of Virginia in a craniofacial clinic for children. This was my first experience as a clinical educator and I was hooked. I was able to continue working in support of communicatively disordered patients/clients, but I also was able to help build the next generation of professionals.
I discovered that I really enjoyed engaging students as they worked to develop and refine their own clinical skills and practice. It was challenging, fulfilling, fun, full of discovery. However, it was immediately clear to me that successful clinical education interactions were not as direct or easy as they might seem. And I had no preparation for them beyond my own practicum experiences as a student. The search for this preparation is what led me to pursue a PhD and later, the opportunity to join a faculty.
Q Why did you choose to focus your research on supervisor/supervisee roles and relationships?
Because, quite frankly, it seemed contradictory to me that although supervised clinical education experiences were required by the professions’ standards and, therefore, important to the integrity of the professions’ service delivery, there were no informed models of clinical education practices in the discipline. Nor was there even a good understanding of the dynamics within the clinical education process between clinical educator (supervisor) and student clinician (supervisee).
Students come to us with their own experiences and ways of understanding, and as clinical educators we need to be able to engage them in the classroom, in clinic and in practice. Their individual perspectives are also complicated by the different settings in which they work and the different clients/patients/families whom they serve. It is often a very complex interaction influenced by many different variables and achieving positive outcomes is not always an easy task.
It was, and continues to be, important to me to help students discover ways to profitably understand and navigate these variables in a positive and efficient way, so that they can achieve the level of professional skill and problem-solving that they will need to build a successful, independent practice. It is equally as important to help clinical educators understand their own practice within the clinical education process so that they are able to effectively refine their own skills and contribute to the development of the supervisees with whom they work.
They say timing is everything. About the time that I decided to return to graduate school for the PhD, I learned of a unique doctoral program at Indiana University. My mentor, Jean L. Anderson, had secured a federal leadership grant from the Department of Education (then the Office of Education) to study and develop training experiences in the clinical education process in speech-language pathology and audiology. It seems I wasn’t the only one who thought that there was more to clinical education than participating in it as a student! The grant aimed to understand the dynamics important to effective clinical education experiences and to investigate instructional strategies that worked best for students and led to their independent, successful, clinical problem solving.
Q How has your research on supervision informed your leadership style?
I have learned so much from the students with whom I worked over the course of their clinical training. I’ve always wanted to approach any kind of a clinical education experience as a collaborative, team interaction, in which clear and open communication is a fundamental element. Historically, the term supervision connotes control, direction and management—all three of which seem contradictory to what, as professions, we’re trying to develop: professionals who are independent, productive, critical thinkers. We need to engage students in productive, collaborative verbal dialogue about the challenges they’re experiencing. The more inclusive we can be, the greater the likelihood for successful communication and student progress. This same approach served me well in previous ASHA leadership experiences, and it is one I will continue to use as president.
Clearly, the participants in and content of Board of Directors discussions will be different than those with students, but I value listening and observing a variety of perspectives that might be different from mine, and then discovering how together we can identify problems and develop collaborative solutions to them. I also believe in the importance of data to help inform discussion, set aside perception, and help develop a solid basis for understanding, which can move an issue forward.
Q What’s at the top of your presidential agenda?
In 2013 the Board began to engage in generative thinking leadership processes, which in a nutshell are activities designed to scan the environment, ask the right questions, and think and talk about threats and opportunities, all in efforts to keep ASHA in a proactive, rather than a reactive position in regard to both threats and opportunities. A portion of each board meeting will be spent in this same way in 2014.
As a result of the generative work begun in 2013, there is already much to do as we continue to work to understand and respond in effective ways to the challenges and opportunies presented by the Affordable Care Act and by changes in public school settings in response to the Common Core State Standards. In both medical and educational venues, we need to be able to demonstrate the value-added that speech-language pathologists and audiologists bring to a patient’s medical outcome(s) and a child’s progress in the curriculum as well as to the quality of life for all our patients and clients. And, we need to be at the table when decisions are made about issues that will affect our professions.
Our immediate challenges include determining what the outcomes measurement needs are in audiology, generating a treatment taxonomy to code the services that are provided to adults in health care settings, and developing a plan to incporate patient-reported outcomes within ASHA’s National Outcomes Measurement System, or NOMs (www.asha.org/NOMS). Additionally, work is underway to facilitate the effective implementation of interprofessional education and practice in the discipline. The ad hoc committee on supervision has just submitted its report and recommendations, which the board will discuss this month. All of this work is not ASHA’s alone but will need to be accomplished in concert with allied professional groups, in and outside of the professions. Throughout all of this, my concern will be how we can best communicate with and prepare professional members, affiliates and students in training for the “new normal” of this rapidly changing practice environment.
ASHA is my professional community. It has always been my professional home, which is why I continue to volunteer. One message that I hope to carry to members this year is that, as a member of any community, we have the responsibility to engage and help sustain it just as organizations such as ASHA have the responsibility to engage and support its members. We are interdependent in many respects.
Q You have a long history of academic leadership in CSD at Indiana University. What do you see as the biggest changes on the horizon in CSD education and training?
Training programs need resources and support to meet the challenges of the changing landscape in health care and public school education, the expanding scopes of practice, and the increasing demands for interprofessional collaboration. We need to prepare students, both didactically and experientially, to demonstrate their value to other health care and educational professionals, both as individual practitioners and as team members.
Training programs and their research efforts have always been fundamental to the advancement of the scientific bases of the professions. That work—the asking and answering of the important questions to advance the discipline—needs to continue; however, it is more important now than ever to mount translational research efforts so the discipline can connect basic science research to practical application and demonstrate the value of those applications to positive patient/client outcomes.
And if it isn’t enough for training programs to consider how to do more with static or diminished resources, it will be important for them also to consider how to develop curricula and use resources effectively so that students do not leave us with so much debt. This economic dynamic is not unique to communication sciences and disorders but is one that is challenging to all of higher education.
Q What are some favorite ways to spend your spare time?
The good news is that I have spare time now and my “to do” list is getting longer!
My husband, David, and I have two sons, Rob and Michael. They have each established their own households now but live close by, so we are blessed to be able to see them often. There are no grandchildren yet, but the grand-dog Elwood, a wonderful boxer, visits often. And perhaps there might be a younger companion, Jake, soon!
Growing up and moving every two and a half years or so, I continue to love to travel and my husband does as well. Our favorite destination is just about anywhere in Italy, and we go just as often as the travel fund will permit. We also enjoy spur of the moment “field trips”— just get in the car on a Sunday and see where the road takes us. Our next road trip will take more than just a day though: down the Natchez Trace in spring into New Orleans from the west, or perhaps an excursion along the Longest Yard Sale from Kentucky into northern Alabama.
If we are not traveling, we love the big, white, sandy beaches in Naples, Fla., where we have a vacation home. I am the one with an assortment of really good historical fiction or biographies under the nearest palm tree.
Now that winter is here, there is Hoosier Hysteria/ Indiana University basketball. Everyone in our family is an unapologetic fan. My husband bought season tickets with his paper route money as a child and we still have them … that is 60 years and counting. Needless to say we celebrate (or agonize) every shot and can quote game and season statistics by heart.
Since I’ve retired, I’ve rediscovered the wonders and joys of the kitchen. I am even cooking from scratch again. Italian, of course, but I am also discovering lots of new ways to cook seafood and have planted an herb garden so the seasoning is just right. I was amazed to learn that there are a dozen or more varieties of thyme! And nothing beats fresh basil and rosemary in summer when it is right out the back door. Image Not Available
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Day job: Full-time ASHA volunteer and adjunct faculty membe at Nova Southeastern University, where she supports the externship program.

Passion: Nurturing the next generation of communication sciences and disorders professionals—oh, and also her grand-dog, Elwood.

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January 2014
Volume 19, Issue 1