Assistant Professor Kelly Farquharson recently was elected president of the Massachusetts Speech-Language-Hearing Association (MSHA), a professional organization dedicated to supporting speech-language pathology and audiology professionals and clients in the state.
Her first order of business? Get more members, starting with her colleagues at Bay State colleges and universities.
“There are about 3,000 or so speech-language pathologists and audiologists in Massachusetts, and we don’t quite have 10 percent of those folks, so we’d really like to increase that membership,” said Farquharson, who teaches in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department and directs the Children’s Literacy and Speech Sound (CLaSS) Lab at Emerson.
Farquharson said when she was in graduate school in Pennsylvania, it was a given that students would join the state professional organization while still in school, and that all faculty members were active members. That doesn’t seem to be the case in Massachusetts, she said.
“We don’t have a large representation from university faculty,” which includes professors and clinicians from Emerson, Boston University, Northeastern University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions, Worcester State University, and soon, Bridgewater State University, “so my hypothesis is it’s not being encouraged in students, so once they graduate, it’s just not on their radar.”
A robust membership is important, because MSHA has important work to do on behalf of providers and patients in the years to come, Farquharson said.
The organization is pushing to get a state law changed to allow provisional licenses for clinical fellows—speech-language pathologists and audiologists in their first year after graduate school.
Right now, clinical fellows in Massachusetts are unlicensed, meaning insurance companies can’t be billed for any of the work they do.
“No one wants to hire a clinician who can’t bill,” Farquharson said. “What’s happening as a downstream effect is we’re losing good clinicians in Massachusetts” to one of the 44 states that do allow first-year fellows to bill.
Farquharson said MSHA will hire a lobbyist to get the bill through this legislative session (they came really close last session, she said), and she plans to sell the $60 membership dues as an investment in getting this important bill passed.
She said she also anticipates a host of “advocacy opportunities” coming down the pike thanks to potential education policies under a Trump administration that will affect school-based practitioners.
“Kelly was a wise choice to become MSHA president,” said Betsy Micucci, director of clinical programs at Emerson’s Robbins Speech, Language, and Hearing Center. “She brings leadership, a deep knowledge and investment in the discipline of speech-language pathology and audiology, lots of positive energy, and she is a genuinely nice person. MSHA is lucky to have her!”