Puerto Rico: A Cultural Crossroads As a result of its Caribbean location, Puerto Rico is a crossroads of Hispanic and Anglo cultures. Our small island has been part of the United States since 1898 and our residents have been U.S. citizens since 1917. This Spanish-English bilingual community uses U.S. currency; no visas or passports are ... Features
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Features  |   November 01, 2008
Puerto Rico: A Cultural Crossroads
Author Notes
  • Albert Villanueva-Reyes, EdD, CCC-SLP, is a professor at the University of Puerto Rico and specializes in normal and disordered voice. Contact him at AlbertVillanueva@cprs.rcm.upr.edu.
    Albert Villanueva-Reyes, EdD, CCC-SLP, is a professor at the University of Puerto Rico and specializes in normal and disordered voice. Contact him at AlbertVillanueva@cprs.rcm.upr.edu.×
Article Information
Professional Issues & Training / International & Global / Features
Features   |   November 01, 2008
Puerto Rico: A Cultural Crossroads
The ASHA Leader, November 2008, Vol. 13, 38-40. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR5.13152008.38
The ASHA Leader, November 2008, Vol. 13, 38-40. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR5.13152008.38
As a result of its Caribbean location, Puerto Rico is a crossroads of Hispanic and Anglo cultures. Our small island has been part of the United States since 1898 and our residents have been U.S. citizens since 1917. This Spanish-English bilingual community uses U.S. currency; no visas or passports are needed to enter the island from the mainland.
My parents were part of the wave of Puerto Ricans who migrated to New York City in the 1950s. At age 7 I returned to the island with my family and can’t imagine living anywhere else. I assumed the chair of the Speech-Language Pathology Program at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), and during my tenure the academic program regained accreditation from the Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA), which it had lost nine years earlier. This status was of major significance, as many professionals from the island often travel to the mainland for jobs that may require ASHA’s Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC).
Academic Program Development
The history of speech-language pathology and audiology in Puerto Rico dates back to the 1960s, when Cruz A. Cancel founded the master’s programs at UPR, which continued to expand after NicolásLinares assumed leadership. There are two other graduate programs in speech-language pathology in Puerto Rico: Universidad del Turabo (CAA candidacy status) and Universidad Carlos Albizu (nonaccredited). There are no doctoral programs in speech-language pathology. UPR has the only audiology academic program, which has recently converted to an AuD program, reflecting changes in entry-level requirements for the profession. The lack of PhD programs in either profession poses challenges for academic programs in attracting doctoral-level faculty and researchers.
A master’s degree is the entry-level requirement for SLPs on the island. In response to the great shortage of SLPs in Puerto Rico, the “speech-language therapist” (SLT) position was created in the early 1980s. After earning a bachelor’s degree and passing a state exam, an SLT may provide services under the supervision of an SLP to clients under 21 years old.
Work Settings
Most SLPs and SLTs work in the schools. Because of personnel shortages, school-based services are often provided through contracts with private practices. Some clinicians also work in rehabilitation settings, but hospital-based employment is uncommon with the exception of the Veterans Administration hospital. Audiologists are employed in a variety of settings, most commonly in private practice. Access to services for all populations remains a struggle, which is an issue of concern to the local professional association for audiologists and speech-language pathologists.
Of more than 800 communication and sciences disorders professionals here, only 132 SLPs hold the CCC-SLP, 25 audiologists hold the CCC-A, and five clinicians hold the CCC-SLP/A. The greatest hurdle is passing the Praxis exam, which is offered only in English and includes content that is sometimes inappropriate to the practice on the island.
As chair of the Multicultural Issues Board and co-founder of the Hispanic Caucus, Luis Riquelme worked with ASHA and the Council for Clinical Certification in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, which granted special permission for Puerto Rican clinicians to apply for the ASHA-CCC as “foreign applicants” for a one-year period, allowing these applicants to earn the CCC even if they graduated from UPR during the nine-year period in which the program lost its CAA accreditation. As a bilingual community, Puerto Rico continues to prepare a significant number of bilingual SLPs and audiologists who collaborate with professionals on the U.S. mainland.
This article also received contributions from Luis F. Riquelme, MS, CCC-SLP, assistant professor at New York Medical College (Valhalla), director of Riquelme & Associates, PC, and director of the Center for Swallowing and Speech-Language Pathology at New York Methodist Hospital (Brooklyn). Contact him at luisslp@aol.com.
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November 2008
Volume 13, Issue 15