Kate Gottfred: 2008 ASHA President A passionate advocate for the discipline of communication sciences and disorders, Kate Gottfred comes to ASHA’s top elected office with 26 years of volunteer experience at the Association. As founder of the nonprofit Leap Learning Systems in Chicago, she built an organization in which SLPs serve as “change agents” to ... President's Interview
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President's Interview  |   January 01, 2008
Kate Gottfred: 2008 ASHA President
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  • Marat Moore, managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be contacted at mmoore@asha.org.
    Marat Moore, managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be contacted at mmoore@asha.org.×
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Professional Issues & Training / ASHA News & Member Stories / President's Interview
President's Interview   |   January 01, 2008
Kate Gottfred: 2008 ASHA President
The ASHA Leader, January 2008, Vol. 13, 16-19. doi:10.1044/leader.PRI.13012008.16
The ASHA Leader, January 2008, Vol. 13, 16-19. doi:10.1044/leader.PRI.13012008.16
A passionate advocate for the discipline of communication sciences and disorders, Kate Gottfred comes to ASHA’s top elected office with 26 years of volunteer experience at the Association. As founder of the nonprofit Leap Learning Systems in Chicago, she built an organization in which SLPs serve as “change agents” to train teachers, tutors, and parents in underserved communities to close the language skills/literacy gap. Her openness to change will serve her well during a year of major changes at ASHA in its move to a new headquarters, new governance structure, and new strategic plan.
Q: What is your vision for your presidential year?
My primary goal is to make the new governance model truly be what it is meant to be—a nimble, effective voice for and of the members of ASHA. We can do this if we succeed in being transparent and open and, as a governing body, listen closely to members’ concerns. The four “pillars” of our new strategic plan—“Two Professions, One Discipline;” Scientifically Based Professional Practice; Advocacy; and The Member Experience—underlie all I hope to accomplish this year. The principle of “Two Professions, One Discipline,” for example, will be supported in our governance structure, with members of each profession voting for profession-specific vice presidents and Advisory Council members. But together, as ASHA, we will continue to speak with the strong voice of one of the nation’s largest member associations.
These four concepts are key to the advancement of communication sciences and disorders—to ensure that both professions find in ASHA an association that serves their needs; that we address professional shortages while remaining true to our scientific growth through evidence-based practice; that the CCCs remain strong to protect us from encroachment and maintain the highest standards of professional practice. And last but not least, that as professions we are recognized by regulatory agencies, reimbursement streams, and scientific/academic bodies as leaders in our disciplines.
This year marks the beginning of our new governance structure, which is designed to make ASHA quicker and better at serving members. The new Advisory Councils will examine and discuss the burning issues facing our professions. The new Board of Directors (BOD) will use the Councils’ input to chart ASHA’s future course. The Board will address member needs through communication with divisions, committees, boards, state associations, and other groups. This open and transparent governance structure reflects our commitment to the highest standard of member service.
2008 promises to be an exciting year! I’m hoping all of our members will take any opportunity possible this year to visit the new office, which offers increased efficiency and communication for both staff and members. And in November, I look forward to seeing everyone in my hometown of Chicago for the ASHA Convention and being able to say that we succeeded in using change to promote growth and excellence.
Q: As vice president for governmental and social policies, you championed grassroots advocacy and equitable reimbursement. Why those issues?
Advocacy is of utmost importance to me. The head of a foundation that gives millions to education causes once told me, “Change practice, yes—but to truly make a difference, change policy.” In the 1980s I was very involved with health care financing for the federal government, and know how important it is for clinicians to understand how funding streams affect service delivery. ASHA’s Health Care Economics Committee (HCEC), for example, has made a significant contribution to the valuation of audiology and speech-language pathology services.
As vice president, I saw that the structure of HCEC needed to be different from other committees—members needed to serve longer in their positions to develop and maintain the necessary expertise. It takes two to three years to learn the intricacies of code development, and success in achieving equitable reimbursement depends on developing trust with representatives of other professions. We educated and lobbied the Executive Board on this issue, and now HCEC has the strength to make ASHA one of the strongest professional voices on reimbursement issues.
Q: You also suggested, as vice president, an innovative approach to help school-based members advocate for school financing, which led to a new committee. How did that happen?
Creating the Schools Finance Committee was one of my proudest achievements as vice president. The idea came from an epiphany I had when attending the Schools’ Conference the first summer of my vice presidency. Seeing HCEC members’ expertise and effectiveness on reimbursement issues for our medical practitioners, I was struck by the lack of a matching committee to serve school-based members.
The growing complexity of school financing affects the work of audiologists and SLPs in the schools. Also, the lack of awareness by members of funding streams or how those streams affected their work was weakening our effectiveness in schools. Although many superb models were being used across the country, there was very little effective sharing or demonstration of those models.
In working to help create this committee, my focus was on finding the best people for the job, making sure they had structural support, and getting out of the way. I believe that best describes my leadership style.
Q: What do you consider the most important issues facing audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and scientists and researchers this year?
The core issues this year include equitable reimbursement, expansion of the knowledge base of our discipline, and our continuing commitment to professional excellence. ASHA will continue advocating for regulations in education and medical settings that offer us the reimbursement rates that will support the growth of our professions and the scientific knowledge in our field.
Other important issues are the doctoral shortage, the increase in cultural and linguistic diversity in clients and patients—and the need to increase diversity and bilingualism in our own professions—and the importance of evidence-based practice. These issues affect all ASHA members in every practice setting, in schools and medical settings as well as training institutions. We’re in this together. The universities are training professionals who will be change agents in many areas of practice—from closing the education gap in schools to devising new ways to intervene in head trauma treatment for military personnel in Iraq and elsewhere. We need to address these issues in every setting—if we don’t, we could lose control of who we are and what we do.
Addressing the shortage of both master’s- and doctoral-level students is of paramount importance for our future. ASHA’s Mentoring Academic Research Careers (MARC) program is our newest online mentoring program for PhD students and new faculty. We also have two other targeted award programs—the Advancing Academic-Research Careers (AARC) and the Students Preparing for Academic & Research Careers (SPARC) programs, as well as a number of resources ASHA developed to support PhD teaching and research careers. I encourage members to visit our Web site at Career Ladder.
Effective supervision and regulation of support personnel operates also is of core importance. Some states have defined how we relate to support personnel—but through ASHA, we must examine how best to do this on a national level. Encroachment is real and can come from related professions or our own support personnel. Other professions have failed to protect their scopes of practice and have been lost within or subservient to another field. Advocacy in all areas, from government policy to the public’s perception of our professions, must be advanced to prevent or limit encroachment.
All these issues—the problem of shortages; the need to preserve our research autonomy and to control our scopes of practice; supervision; advocacy; support of all our specialties and practice settings; and even recognition of our unique contribution to the world—are serious endeavors, and ASHA can lead the way. Our mission at ASHA—“Making effective communication, a human right, accessible and achievable for all”—is a grand one, but it is achievable by using our collective strength and vision to support one another and the clients and patients we serve.
Q: How about audiology issues? What’s most important in your view?
ASHA has the strength and reputation to move audiology forward. Professional autonomy through enactment of laws ensuring direct access to audiology services and H.R. 1912—the Medicare Hearing Enhancement and Auditory Rehabilitation (HEAR) Act of 2007—as well as continued growth and strengthening of other reimbursement streams are other important audiology issues.
The HCEC—which has five audiologists as well as five SLPs—continues its successful run in helping to usher in new reimbursement codes that benefit audiologists. In the last three years alone we have new codes for central auditory evaluation, tinnitus assessment, auditory rehabilitation evaluation, and auditory rehabilitation. Another new code for canalith repositioning is in the works. In addition to the committee’s fine work, ASHA vigorously advocates for audiology issues at the state and federal levels, and recently received the association world’s highest award for our campaign on early hearing detection and intervention.
With additional audiology-specific seats on the Board of Directors, ASHA’s new governance structure offers new leadership opportunities for audiologists. The new governance will support the concept of “One Discipline, Two Professions” in the new strategic plan and provide a support structure to make it the real and true foundation of ASHA. As audiologists and speech-language pathologists, we are stronger because of our shared commitment to human communication, which creates synergy to move both professions forward.
Another important audiology concern for me is the need to build the knowledge base of hearing science by addressing teaching and research shortages within our university programs. The important move toward the clinical doctorate as the entry-level degree must be supported by a broad base of scientific knowledge and it is equally important to pass that knowledge to audiology students and to future generations of audiologists.
Q: Your nonprofit organization, Leap Learning Systems, in Chicago, offers wide-ranging programs in literacy development. Why is the role of the SLP important in literacy?
Improving literacy achievement is going to become increasingly important over the next decade as researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers work to take to scale effective approaches to identifying, preventing, and addressing reading problems in children from preschool through adolescence. Although alot of work has been done in the research communities to identify directions to take in these efforts, we still see a tremendous research-to-practice gap, particularly for educators who work in very challenging circumstances (e.g., rural communities that serve large numbers of poor children and urban settings in which children are learning English as a second language).
SLPs can sit on the sidelines or we can be collaborative leaders as schools retool to emphasize prevention. Obviously, I would like to see us emerge as collaborative leaders as we take to scale the scientific findings that say that the vast majority of children who face risks in becoming skilled readers can, in fact, become skilled readers.
If America is to close the education gap, the skills of speech-language pathologists are invaluable. We know that language skills from ages 0–5 will form the basis for literacy skills. The term “response to intervention” reflects how we have always intervened to see what a child can and can’t do. We can be the change agents for education in America. Leap Learning Systems has programs that allow us to use our skills as speech-language pathologists to help students and teachers close the education gap in America.
Q: How did your leadership path unfold? And what would you say to young clinicians who might be interested in becoming tomorrow’s leaders of ASHA?
I come from a family of volunteers, who were Norwegians on the northwest side of Chicago. My first role models were my mother and grandmother. Grandma made sure that all our far-flung relatives did not suffer during the Great Depression. Later she would take me on weekly trips to serve a nearby Norwegian orphanage. As a first-grade teacher and later, as a pioneer in the learning disabilities field, my mom volunteered every summer in migrant work camps with children who moved too often to have consistent schooling. At a very young age, she began taking me along as her “teacher’s aide.” She told me as a 6-year-old that I was given the ability to read to help others do the same. Later she ran summer reading programs in a storefront church across from the Jane Adams Housing Projects.
Everyone has his or her own path in life. To young clinicians I would say, “One day soon you’ll wake up and realize you’re a veteran in your field, not the young mover and shaker you are now. So keep moving, doing, and shaking ASHA—our discipline will be the better for it!”
Q: Ten years from now, in 2018, what do you believe we will see as the greatest accomplishment of professionals in communication sciences and disorders?
If we can become truly global in our thinking and more multilingual, we will help humanity understand that we need to share a common vision, an ultimate goal of unity. That’s a big order, but I believe that within 10 years we will understand that as communication experts, we can help America make that transition to becoming a multilingual country where all are respected and grow in understanding of each other.
Q: How about hobbies or interests that would help members know you better?
I’ve been married for nearly 40 years and am a mother of three and a grandmother of four—and I love watching their language development! My mother lives with us and continues to be an inspiration. I also enjoy oil painting and horseback riding.
Q: Any final words?
We are an amazing discipline. Have you ever known such a dedicated, caring, intelligent, knowledgeable group of people? Women and men become audiologists and speech-language pathologists out of a quest for knowledge and the desire to help others, and I’m grateful to be a part of that. Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “A people that puts privilege above principle soon loses both.” We know that and keep principle high as we strive for recognition and appropriate compensation for our professions.
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January 2008
Volume 13, Issue 1