Noma B. Anderson: 2007 ASHA President Noma Anderson believes in giving back—to her profession, her students, her community, and her association. Her service to ASHA goes back more than 20 years and reflects her broad interests and deep commitment to clinical standards, cultural competence in an increasingly multicultural world, broader visibility and fair reimbursement for the ... President's Interview
President's Interview  |   January 01, 2007
Noma B. Anderson: 2007 ASHA President
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Professional Issues & Training / ASHA News & Member Stories / President's Interview
President's Interview   |   January 01, 2007
Noma B. Anderson: 2007 ASHA President
The ASHA Leader, January 2007, Vol. 12, 6-23. doi:10.1044/leader.PRI.12012007.6
The ASHA Leader, January 2007, Vol. 12, 6-23. doi:10.1044/leader.PRI.12012007.6
Noma Anderson believes in giving back—to her profession, her students, her community, and her association. Her service to ASHA goes back more than 20 years and reflects her broad interests and deep commitment to clinical standards, cultural competence in an increasingly multicultural world, broader visibility and fair reimbursement for the professions, science and research, higher education, international outreach, and more. In this interview, ASHA’s top officer discusses her path to leadership and her goals for the year ahead.
How would you define your vision as ASHA president in 2007?
It is my vision that ASHA will continue to be an association that responds to member needs and strongly promotes the discipline of communication sciences and disorders to the public, to regulators, and to other disciplines. As ASHA president, I will support the Association’s advocacy on access to quality health care; the development of new knowledge; treatment efficacy, clinical outcomes, and evidence-based practice. Other key issues for me are fair reimbursement and equitable salaries; appropriate assessment and intervention strategies for individuals from multicultural populations; the need to increase the diversity of ASHA membership; and international collaboration in the areas of research, professional practices, and ethical and professional standards.
I will use my influence as ASHA president to ensure that the focal areas of the Association’s work comprehensively address ASHA’s broad-based membership: audiologists and speech-language pathologists in all settings, researchers, academics, and students. I will use ASHA’s vast resources to reach out to all our constituencies. Each is unique, and therefore requires targeted communication strategies. I will work closely with staff to ensure that needs of each group are identified and are addressed in timely and effective ways.
How did your professional and leadership path unfold?
My professional development has been shaped to a tremendous extent by my experiences within ASHA. Early in my career I aspired to be a part of the association’s leadership. In 1970 I attended my first ASHA Convention as a senior at Hampton Institute. ASHA conventions were exciting! The Black Caucus was in its infancy, and a group of ASHA members were articulating a social and political agenda for our association. In addition, ASHA’s Office of Urban and Ethnic Affairs was established. As an undergraduate student, then later as a master’s student and young professional, I attended the ASHA convention every year and received a high-energy dose of creative ideas, mentoring, and professional development. Attending the conventions during those years gave me a diverse view of ASHA leadership, and after being around so many leaders I admired, I was hooked.
You have served ASHA in many capacities—most recently as vice president for academic affairs, but also in the areas of certification, awards, and professional standards. How have these experiences prepared you for the year ahead?
Beginning early in my career, I gradually became more deeply involved with the Association. Over the past 20 years I have held several appointments on committees and boards for ASHA and related professional associations. I admire and have been greatly motivated by the commitment of volunteer leaders.
Through this involvement I’ve gained a deeper understanding of several important principles that should serve me well as ASHA president. First, our best practices, our professional positions, and our research agenda are dynamic constructs. It is critical that ASHA members, leadership, and staff continuously identify emerging issues and be vigilant about ensuring that our Association proactively addresses the needs and issues as they arise. Second, widespread member input is essential. And third, I see the expansion of ASHA’s influence through international interchanges of professional knowledge, information, and education related to ethics, clinical practice, and supervision.
You traveled to Africa twice as a young woman and have worked as an adjunct professor in Saudi Arabia. You traveled to Bulgaria to examine higher education in that country. You have been a dean at an international university with a large Hispanic population. How have your diverse cultural experiences informed your thinking about issues facing ASHA?
When I first traveled to Africa as a speech-language pathology and audiology major in college, our professions were not well-known—if known at all—in that part of the world. Except for some special services for children who were deaf, I did not see other disabilities being addressed. In contrast, 30 years later when I taught in Saudi Arabia as an adjunct faculty member for San Jose State University, I met people from many parts of the Middle East who were studying in Jeddah to become speech-language pathologists. In Jeddah and in Riyadh I saw a growing awareness of and attention to communication disorders, and also saw how the prevalence and severity of communication disorders vary worldwide. It was clear that our academic and professional standards for professional practice, accreditation, and certification are valued internationally. Overall, I am convinced that we need to encourage global recognition of the need for audiology, speech-language pathology, and swallowing services, while still, of course, improving access and service delivery in the United States.
My overseas experiences heightened my awareness of the need to address health disparities nationally and internationally. Access to health care is an important issue everywhere. My travels also sparked an intense interest in issues related to the unserved and underserved, concepts and awareness of rehabilitation disciplines, and cultural and linguistic diversity. An interest in epidemiology and prevention as concepts in health and rehabilitation also grew from these overseas experiences. We are in great need of epidemiological data that reflect national and global perspectives.
What do you consider the most important professional issues facing audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and scientists and researchers this year?
I am concerned about the lack of access to services because of the personnel shortages of speech-language pathologists and audiologists. Reimbursement continues to be a serious challenge. My other concerns include the doctoral shortage—and its impact on our ability to generate new knowledge and to adequately prepare the next generations of clinicians. In the area of recruitment, our ability to attract males and individuals from culturally diverse populations are pressing concerns.
Let’s look into the crystal ball. Do you think these challenges will still be with us in, say, 10 years?
I think we’ll see two continuing challenges are in the fiscal arena—reimbursement for the delivery of clinical services, and competitive salaries for our members in almost all settings. The advancement of science and research will be a continuing challenge. Personnel shortages are creating service delivery gaps that are being filled by individuals from other disciplines. For example, we are seeing that with the shortage of PhDs in our discipline, people from other disciplines are filling more and more faculty positions in departments of communication sciences and disorders and are receiving research grants and publishing on topics related to our discipline. Due to the personnel shortages in the schools, credentialed interventionists who are not speech-language pathologists are emerging in some states. These situations need to be addressed.
Diversity will continue to be a challenge. Males are 6.5% of the ASHA membership—this statistic needs immediate attention. More males need to be recruited because there is no bona fide reason for our professions to be female-dominated. Misleading stereotypes and a lack of awareness of our professions are two reasons why fewer males enter communication sciences and disorders. Beyond the gender issue, cultural and linguistic diversity, as well as international relations, are areas that will challenge us. There is a continuing need for development of assessment and intervention tools that address communication development and communication proficiency across cultures. Interest in ASHA from other countries will also challenge and encourage us not only to disseminate research and to articulate professional and ethical standards, but also to expand our professional perspectives based upon what we will learn from our colleagues around the world.
Advocacy, lobbying, and governmental affairs in reimbursement and other policy areas are critical areas for us. Improved outcomes will enhance access to quality services for persons with communication disorders. Specifically, continued progress in this area will improve the viability and fiscal base of many of our members’ practices and clinical service delivery departments in all settings.
Personnel shortages—and the interest by other professionals in filling those gaps—underscore the importance of ASHA’s consumer marketing to promote the value of quality services by audiologists and SLPs. We need to correct stereotypes and expand the public’s concept of who we are. We should also continue to promote ASHA’s evidence-based practice initiatives, enhanced scopes of practice for our professions, and clinical specializations.
Let’s move from challenges to opportunities. What do you see on ASHA’s horizon?
I’m positive that the next 10 years will bring continued growth to our discipline. Evidence-based practice and treatment efficacy will continue to drive our practice and our research agendas. By establishing the National Center for Evidence-Based Practice and the Advisory Committee on Evidence-Based Practice, ASHA has become a national leader in the rehabilitation community.
We also have the opportunity to increase our value to the public by explaining who we are and what we do. Expansion of our scopes of practice and increased establishment of clinical specializations will help us in that effort.
ASHA can have a global impact on communication sciences and disorders, and would be a natural leader given our Association’s 40-year history of addressing and promoting these issues.
Our journals are another opportunity. With our journals we can promote our research and our professions, expanding our influence among professionals nationally and internationally. Our journals should be a platform for expanded visibility for ASHA.
Technology remains an underutilized medium. It is important for us to systematically explore the extent to which technology can enhance the delivery of continuing education, clinical services, supervision, and ASHA meetings—and perhaps save resources and improve the timely delivery of education and services. The first step, however, is deeper exploration of emerging technology to determine how the medium can be an opportunity for ASHA and its membership.
You have been deeply involved in issues of culture in your research, teaching and volunteer leadership positions. Where do we need to go from here in the area of multiculturalism?
Early in my career I often presented on sociolinguistic aspects of Black English, or African American English Vernacular. I lectured to speech-language pathologists about culturally and linguistically appropriate assessment and intervention approaches. As cultural and linguistic diversity increased in our country, my lectures and writings expanded to include bilingualism and bidialectalism. Development of cultural competence through learning about one’s own culture is a strong component of my writings and professional presentations. As we better understand our own cultural roots, we are more open to learning about cultures of our students and clients.
My academic career has been at three universities: two are Historically Black Universities and Florida International University, where I now work, serves a predominantly Hispanic population. Preparing students of color to become certified speech-language pathologists and audiologists and to earn PhDs in the field has been very rewarding work.
Another aspect of multiculturalism that ASHA members are well-qualified to address is the need to focus on academic inequity in the schools. In many school districts, students of color have less than optimal success in schools, have high drop-out rates, and frequently are disproportionately enrolled in special education. The knowledge that we, as ASHA members, have about culture and sociolinguistics, language acquisition, literacy, language comprehension, pragmatics, communicative competence, metacognition, and bidialectalism and bilingualism, allows us to be key players in fostering the success of students of color in our nation’s schools.
It is also important for ASHA’s membership to reflect the demographic diversity of the United States. Efforts within ASHA should be directed at enhancing our marketing of the professions, our mentoring, student and faculty recruitment, and multicultural approaches to assessment and intervention.
You will be president during the year that ASHA moves into a new headquarters. How do you view this move?
The new building will be a bricks-and-mortar symbol for members and the public of ASHA and our discipline. As a symbol of the Association, the new headquarters will “communicate” that our discipline and our association are strong and that our future holds tremendous promise. Even the architectural design is relevant—it symbolizes the processes of speaking and hearing. Our address will be Research Boulevard! For our association to have the foresight and fiscal capability to successfully embark upon such a significant undertaking demonstrates that ASHA is a visionary association well-equipped to meet the opportunities and challenges ahead.
Can you tell us anything that would help us to know you better—how about your family background, or personal interests?
My parents and extended family were, of course, the early molders and shapers of my personal and professional development. Education and achievement were valued by my family and my community. My parents both held master’s degrees: my father was an actuary and my mother is a retired elementary school teacher. My father was the third African American actuary in the United States, and according to Florida A&M University, my paternal grandfather was probably Florida’s first African American physician.
I grew up in the college town of Durham, NC, where college-educated African American professionals-educators, physicians, pharmacists, lawyers, ministers, newspaper publishers, bankers, business owners—were everyday role models and mentors. Growing up in the South in the 1950s through the 1970s gave me a strong sense of social responsibility, an awareness of the connectedness of the individual to her/his community.
As an adult, my sense of being connected to community has extended to my professional communities—the universities where I have worked, and certainly to ASHA.
Any final words?
Only this—becoming ASHA president is a “thank you” to all the members I have met and by whom I have been inspired.
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January 2007
Volume 12, Issue 1