Parkinson Voice Project Awards 2021 SPEAK OUT! & LOUD Crowd Grant to University of Mary

Tom Ackerman
Special to Devils Lake Daily Journal

BISMARCK — For the second straight year the University of Mary Speech Language Pathology (SLP) program is the recipient of a national grant that benefits students and their patients. Parkinson Voice Project, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, has awarded University of Mary’s SLP program its 2021 SPEAK OUT! & LOUD Crowd Grant Program. 

The Speech-Language Pathology Department at the University of Mary offers a bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) and a master’s degree in SLP. The department graduated its first class in April 2020. These graduates have obtained employment both locally and nationally. The profession of Speech-Language Pathology continues to experience rapid growth with increased need for professionals. Speech-Language Pathologists serve individuals across the life span, targeting communication and swallowing abilities including speech, language, voice, stuttering, feeding, and swallowing, social language, and cognition. SLPs work in many different settings such as public schools, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and private practice.

In the upcoming 2021 2022 academic year, there are 16 students starting their first year in the SLP program and 16 students in the second-year cohort graduating in the spring of 2022.

“The Parkinson Voice Project grant provides free SPEAK OUT! & LOUD Crowd training to our faculty and graduate students,” said Brittany Hernandez the clinical coordinator with the SLP department at the University of Mary. “Throughout the training, students learn information about Parkinson’s disease, and how this particular program targets improved skills for those with Parkinson’s. After completing the training, students are able to provide SPEAK OUT! & LOUD Crowd therapy under the supervision of SLP faculty. The SPEAK OUT! & LOUD Crowd programs not only improve the communication skills of individuals with Parkinson’s in our community and state, but also provide our graduate student clinicians with training and clinical experiences.”

Currently, according to 2020 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual wage for speech-language pathologists is $80,480. Nationally, there is a great demand for SLPs, with a projected growth of 25 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS adds, as the large baby-boom population grows older, there will be more instances of health conditions that can cause speech or language impairments, such as strokes or dementia. North Dakota had the third highest concentration of jobs for speech-language pathologists in the country in 2015, according to the BLS. Bismarck ranked as the city with the ninth highest concentration of jobs in the country.       

“In total, our clinic served nearly 50 clients this past year, ranging from pediatrics to adults,” added Hernandez. “So, the grant, for which we are extremely grateful to receive, has been a win-win for not only our students, but most importantly patients who need professional help the most. Seeing the improvement and subsequent joy on the faces of those we care for and their families is very heartwarming to our students and faculty. Those outcomes and success stories are very rewarding to us, fulfilling our mission as a Christian, Catholic, and Benedictine university.”

People wanting more program information can visit University of Mary SLP online, email, or call (701) 355-8030 and (800) 288-6279.

Individuals interested in utilizing the University of Mary pro-bono clinic should email, or call (701) 355-8288. More information can be found on the clinic website.  

Grant recipients include hospitals, university speech therapy clinics, private practices, and nonprofit organizations. Each clinic receives therapy supplies and free training for their speech-language pathologists and graduate students. University of Mary is committed to offering Parkinson Voice Project’s effective speech therapy program in the Bismarck-Mandan area.

This grant program honors Daniel R. Boone, PhD, CCC-SLP a world-renowned speech-language pathologist and voice expert who recognized in the late 1950s that individuals with Parkinson's could improve their communication by “speaking with intent." Parkinson Voice Project’s program combines individual and group therapy to convert speech from an automatic function to an intentional act.