Finding Inspiration and a Profession First Person on the Last Page First Person on the Last Page
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First Person on the Last Page  |   April 01, 2010
Finding Inspiration and a Profession
Author Notes
  • Yael Lefkowitz, is a senior at Stern College for Women in New York City. She hopes to attend graduate school in the New York area in fall 2010 and then to work in a hospital setting. Contact her at yael.lefkowitz@gmail.com.
    Yael Lefkowitz, is a senior at Stern College for Women in New York City. She hopes to attend graduate school in the New York area in fall 2010 and then to work in a hospital setting. Contact her at yael.lefkowitz@gmail.com.×
Article Information
Professional Issues & Training / First Person on the Last Page
First Person on the Last Page   |   April 01, 2010
Finding Inspiration and a Profession
The ASHA Leader, April 2010, Vol. 15, 39. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.15042010.39
The ASHA Leader, April 2010, Vol. 15, 39. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.15042010.39

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I hope to become a speech-language pathologist—a decision that was validated last summer when I volunteered at a rehab hospital and nursing home, not realizing that this experience would influence the direction of my future career.
Although I am not a morning person, I practically jumped out of bed each day to get to the hospital and wished that there were more hours in the workday. I observed everything from swallow evaluations to treatment sessions for Parkinson’s disease to stroke support groups. I also made numerous visits to the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) clinic.
Everyone, from the clinicians around me to the patients, was so inspiring and enlightening that each day was more exciting than the next. When I walked into the room of a long-term care patient to observe a swallow evaluation with a clinician, I saw a woman who appeared to be wilting away, yet the clinicians would not give up on her. She had a PEG tube, but SLPs wanted to determine if she could withstand even a small amount of food by mouth so that she would feel more alive during her last days.
I expected the ALS clinic visits would be difficult emotionally, yet I found myself looking forward to them. The patients with ALS are some of the strongest and most determined people I have ever met. Walking into the exam rooms, I envisioned being an inspiration to these patients—but I was mistaken. Instead, they were my inspiration. One patient was a middle-aged woman who looked stunning with her perfectly done makeup, beautiful hair, and stylish outfit. The wheelchair and her partially paralyzed hands were the only clues to the disease. She refused to give up and was determined not to let ALS rob her dignity.
These patients had a tremendous impact on my life, and someday I hope that I might influence theirs. One of the first patients with ALS that I visited kept asking questions about my life and my plans for the future. In responding, I asked myself the same questions about his life. What were his plans for the future? With the progression of his disease, I knew he would be lucky to attend his daughter’s next birthday. Yet, he still cared to ask about my aspirations. His selfless interest taught me never to compare my situation with others. These patients taught me how to truly appreciate the gift of speech—sometimes without saying a word—and as an SLP, I will do everything possible to impart this gift to as many as I can.
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April 2010
Volume 15, Issue 4