Preparing for Our Future: Translating Research Into Practice As we educate future CSD professionals, we cannot overemphasize the importance of evidence, responsible interpretation and critical thinking. From the President
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From the President  |   October 01, 2017
Preparing for Our Future: Translating Research Into Practice
Author Notes
  • Gail J. Richard, PhD, CCC-SLP, is former department chair, professor emeritus and director of The Autism Center at Eastern Illinois University. gjrichard@eiu.edu
    Gail J. Richard, PhD, CCC-SLP, is former department chair, professor emeritus and director of The Autism Center at Eastern Illinois University. gjrichard@eiu.edu×
Article Information
Professional Issues & Training / From the President
From the President   |   October 01, 2017
Preparing for Our Future: Translating Research Into Practice
The ASHA Leader, October 2017, Vol. 22, 6-7. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.22102017.6
The ASHA Leader, October 2017, Vol. 22, 6-7. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.22102017.6
This issue of the Leader focuses on preparing the next generation of professionals. Having worked in academia for 36 years, including 14 years as a department chair, I can attest to the challenges of preparing students for the work world.
The scope of practice in audiology and speech-language pathology has changed and dramatically expanded during my professional life. Many of the professional responsibilities now encompassed in competency expectations were not part of my educational training. I acquired much of my teaching and practice expertise after graduating with my degree. I cannot overemphasize the importance of continuing education to stay abreast of developments in our professions.
One of the most frustrating and misleading aspects of research translation into practice is when correlation between variables is interpreted as causality. One glaring example of this has occurred in the area of autism spectrum disorder. The MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccine was interpreted as an etiology of the disorder, despite multiple credible research studies that disproved an original study suggesting a correlation.
The misinterpretation led to increased concern in the public, as some parents withheld immunization from children. Vaccinations provide immunity to viral infections, which attack a sensory neurological system (for example, sight, hearing or movement).
Medical professionals are extremely concerned about the risks posed by lack of immunity. When parents withhold vaccinations because of a false risk (like the possibility of autism), the real risk is their child could contract a seriously harmful viral disease.
In fact, that reality has already occurred, with the recent re-emergence of measles, mumps and whooping cough in the United States. Within the past year, lack of immunity to measles triggered a significant outbreak that caused serious long-term health complications among some children who were not vaccinated.

The gap between research and clinical practice continues to shrink, as the need for evidence to substantiate clinical decisions becomes more necessary.

Evidence is essential
As a thesis advisor, I encountered a somewhat comparable type of confusion among students summarizing results of their research studies. I often advised them to carefully analyze results, both qualitatively and quantitatively, to determine the nature of the relationship between variables as a correlation versus cause. There is always a tendency to overgeneralize results and imply causation.
The same dilemma can occur in clinical practice. Significant progress on treatment goals might be due to normal maturation, a spontaneous recovery period following injury, or another external factor. The gap between research and clinical practice continues to shrink, as the need for evidence to substantiate clinical decisions becomes more necessary. Ethical, competent practice requires that audiologists and speech-language pathologists review the scientific literature regularly. Students are learning to make clinical treatment and assessment decisions based on evidence. Our professions continue to be challenged to generate strong treatment research to guide our clinical decisions.
The need for efficacy and outcome measures continues to be a primary objective of clinical research in our professions. ASHA has generated a Strategic Pathway, establishing eight aspirational goals to guide its work toward its 100th anniversary in 2025. The first objective is to expand data available for quality improvement and demonstration of value. This strategic objective focuses the association on taking steps to expand our database to demonstrate quality improvement and value to consumers and funding entities.
Subsets of that goal include multiple efforts to generate large databases and outcome measurements to enable improvement in our practice, demonstrate value to external parties, and assist clients in making informed choices. Correspondingly, ASHA has significantly revamped its journals program to expand opportunities for publication of clinical research.

Internship supervisors are instrumental in helping students balance clinical impressions with evidence to guide assessment and treatment decisions.

Critical thinking is … critical
While there are educational challenges in adequately preparing students for various employment settings, professors also recognize that you can’t possibly teach a student everything. Critical thinking and the ability to extrapolate knowledge into adjunct aspects of practice are important skills to instill in students.
However, it’s also important for internship supervisors to understand that students in a clinical fellowship are not “finished”; they are still learning and shouldn’t be expected to function as independent, completely competent professionals. Internship supervisors are a critical component in continuing the educational preparation for students, by providing real-world experience in various employment settings. They are also instrumental in helping students balance clinical impressions with evidence to guide assessment and treatment decisions.
Despite the challenges, I am continually impressed with the caliber of students in our discipline. They are intelligent, dedicated, conscientious and inspiring. I’ve attended several College Bowl- type activities at various state conventions and been impressed with the competitive desire to excel in answering the questions. There is a thirst for knowledge that is coupled with a genuine compassion and desire to make a difference in the lives of individuals with communication disorders. I love interacting with students and can assure you that the future of audiology and speech-language pathology is in good hands with our emerging professionals.
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FROM THIS ISSUE
October 2017
Volume 22, Issue 10