2012 ASHA President Shelly Chabon Doesn’t Cook but Loves to Serve 2012 ASHA President Shelly Chabon Name: Shelly Chabon Day job: Professor and Chair, Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, Portland State University Passion: Walking and taking the streetcar in Portland, Ore., just as she did growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y. “I had no idea how freeing ... President's Interview
President's Interview  |   January 01, 2012
2012 ASHA President Shelly Chabon Doesn’t Cook but Loves to Serve
Author Notes
  • Bridget Murray Law, managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at bmurraylaw@asha.org.
    Bridget Murray Law, managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at bmurraylaw@asha.org.×
Article Information
ASHA News & Member Stories / President's Interview
President's Interview   |   January 01, 2012
2012 ASHA President Shelly Chabon Doesn’t Cook but Loves to Serve
The ASHA Leader, January 2012, Vol. 17, 20-23. doi:10.1044/leader.PRI.17012012.20
The ASHA Leader, January 2012, Vol. 17, 20-23. doi:10.1044/leader.PRI.17012012.20
2012 ASHA President Shelly Chabon
Name: Shelly Chabon
Day job: Professor and Chair, Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, Portland State University
Passion: Walking and taking the streetcar in Portland, Ore., just as she did growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y. “I had no idea how freeing it would be to give up my car,” she said.
Bold and energetic, Shelly Chabon has never balked at trying something new. In fact, the bigger the challenge, the more motivated she is to pursue it. As a first-generation college student, she moved on to founding and growing academic programs for speech-language pathologists. Now she’s ready to take on the 2012 ASHA presidency—and to get you involved in the association.
Service is important to you. What service activity are you most proud of, and how do you hope to foster service among ASHA members?
There is a Mexican proverb that reminds us to “Haz el bien sin miriar a quién”; that translates to “Do good and don’t worry to whom.”
I grew up in a traditional Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., learning it was important to give back. One tenet of traditional Judaism is giving to those less fortunate, known as tzedakah. Rather than centering on the generosity of an act, tzedakah instead suggests that giving is an act of justice and is a special reward from the recipient to the giver. Likewise, the mitzvah in Judaism can be likened to an act of human kindness. From a young age, my parents and grandparents embodied a spirit of service. I remember there being pushkes, boxes for collecting coins for those in need, in their homes, and we were encouraged from a young age to engage in the tradition of tzedakah.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve.” I think ASHA is full of great people in this respect, as service is what truly characterizes our professions. In 2011 I attended the state convention in Kansas, where I had lived for several years before moving to Oregon and where my father spent the final years of his life. After my presentation, my dad’s SLP made a point to say hello to me. This moment reminded me of the connection, personal and professional, we have to each other. Over the years, my own experience as a member of ASHA has been colored by such touching examples of compassion and caring. If I have come away with a single critical observation, it is that an interaction between two people can resonate and that this sort of experience multiplied throughout an organization can strengthen the organization, as well as make a difference for the individuals involved.
Of all of my volunteer experiences—as a graduate student providing respite care for a child with autism, serving meals and giving clothes to the less fortunate, and later serving on the Council for Clinical Certification in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, Council on Academic Accreditation, ASHA Board of Ethics and Board of Directors—my favorite is always the one in which I am currently engaged. I hope to be able to say, at the end of 2012, that I am most proud of my service as ASHA president.
If you had to pick one thing to accomplish in your presidential year, what would it be?
I want to encourage a spirit of collegiality by involving members from across work settings, re-engaging prior volunteer leaders, and inviting people who have not yet volunteered to become active in the association.
An organization can succeed only to the extent that it can enable and facilitate the success of its individual members. I want ASHA members to know what membership really means, to discover reasons to contribute their time and talents, to voice their preferences through voting, writing letters to editors, visiting ASHA’s Action Center, contacting their state and national representatives, using In Touch, participating in available social media, and attending conventions. I also want them to feel confident that they are being heard.
What, in your view, is the biggest challenge facing the professions over the next five years?
One big challenge will be determining how to respond to increasingly complex health care and education reforms. The implementation of these reforms will involve payment systems based on results—not on volume of tests, procedures, or services—and will have far-reaching effects. I think we can anticipate that this legislation will influence the type of treatment provided, who can treat, how often, how much will be paid, and even the terminology that we use.
It has been 10 years since the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) was published, yet its impact on the way we prepare future SLPs and audiologists and do clinical work hasn’t been fully realized. ASHA and its members have provided some excellent examples of applying ICF to manage certain speech, language, and hearing disorders. It’s time to expand on these efforts, to continue to develop and strengthen our evidence-based clinical guidelines and criteria. It’s time to incorporate the ICF into our everyday practice and communicate clearly how our work improves the quality of life of those we serve.
What do you hope to see ASHA do in response to this challenge?
Our biggest challenge may also be our greatest opportunity. In this time of budget cuts, we can pull together to communicate the value of our services and form new partnerships. Already, ASHA’s efforts to ensure that our professionals are represented in education and health care legislation are notable. For example, ASHA developed the National Outcome Measurement System, which provides SLPs with objective tools to measure patient progress. The Academy of Neurological Communication Disorders and Sciences has been encouraging evidence-based care and developing guidelines for the preparation of SLPs and standards for practice. The ASHA Quality of Communication Life Scale can be used to look at how a communication disorder affects an adult’s life.
For real progress to occur, ASHA members must have support to conduct research on clinical outcomes. Acceptance of the general value of our work is by no means assured. ASHA is considering convening a summit on health and education reform in early 2012. It is critical that there be more discussion of these issues. Our practitioners and those we serve are counting on us.
You’re a self-described risk-taker. Do you think that a willingness to take risks is part of being an effective leader?
I’d rather try and risk failure than not try at all and miss the chance to make a difference. I’m always pushing myself to do more, to try harder, and to be better. I have never been concerned with protecting the status quo. I’m not talking about taking physical risks like skydiving or mountain climbing, just cognitive ones.
I’ve moved around a lot and given up tenure twice to start something different. There may be a finer line between courageous and crazy than we realize.
Of course, I try to consider the implications and consequences that an action will have on all involved. Having a good idea does not guarantee you have a good solution, nor does it necessarily enhance your popularity. Robert Kennedy said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” True leaders must strive to cultivate intellectual energy and have the courage to question and the confidence to make mistakes.
One of your particular academic interests is working with bilingual children. How are SLPs and audiologists doing at serving this population?
We have made some important advances but must continue to work to reduce bias in assessment and treatment and demonstrate the efficacy of our efforts through our science and service. We should strive to honor our differences, not because of a mandate that tells us we must but because we believe that we must.
Through teaching, I’ve had lots of opportunities to interact with students from many cultures. I’ve also worked to infuse multicultural topics into my own courses. Now, quite a few university programs emphasize bilingual training through curricular and extracurricular activities. At Portland State University, we offer a bilingual specialization and immersion experience in Ecuador, and we have a group of professionals who meet regularly about better serving our linguistically diverse community. I hope these sorts of activities will help attract more bilingual students to the professions, as the need for culturally and linguistically responsive SLPs and audiologists is bigger than ever because of our increasingly diverse population.
How has your family—four sons and a husband—informed and shaped your career?
They all have supported me at each step along the way, whether it was to pursue a second master’s degree in audiology, a doctorate in speech-language pathology, postdoctoral studies in the ethnography of communication, and through a number of career moves, always understanding that I have more of a talent for maintaining a full schedule than for home cooking.
My husband and I worked together when he was the medical director of the pediatric hospital where I was employed. It took him a while, but gradually he stopped introducing me as the “speech therapist” and learned to call me a speech pathologist. When he began to refer to me as a speech-language pathologist, I knew I was going to marry him. You could say that I married him for the title. My husband nurtures my spirit and makes me laugh. He has more confidence in me than I have in myself.
My oldest son’s first word was “ASHA”; well, maybe not, but that sounds right in the context of this interview. All joking aside, the Chabon boys (when all four are together, we refer to it as a Chabonanza) are quite familiar with this organization and shared my pride in being elected its president. They have heard many stories about my adventures, attended ASHA conventions, “entertained” at parties for ASHA representatives, reviewed my own and my colleagues’ work, and been willing to pick up and move when the next job called. They are all different, but each is wonderful in his own way. Michael is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Steve a teacher and administrator, Dan a law student and comic book editor, and 29-year old Andy is temporarily retired, but secure in his own mind. I also have six beautiful grandchildren and one on the way.
Can we look forward to seeing you inject some humor into your presidential term?
I plan to take my responsibilities seriously, but not myself. I’m glad you asked this question, though, because my husband tells me that the only person who finds me funny is me. There is a stand-up comedian in all of us, but humor is just one, albeit large, aspect of who I am. The scientist in me is constantly asking questions, the clinician seeking to support and comfort, and the teacher trying to guide and mentor.
One of my favorite adages reminds us to “think deeply, speak gently, love much, laugh a lot, work hard, give freely, and be kind.” This seems like good advice to me.
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January 2012
Volume 17, Issue 1