Michael Groher, professor of communicative disorders

Improving patient care by transforming the role of speech pathologists.

Professor of Communicative Disorders Michael Groher is helping to transform the role speech pathologists play in patient care.

Through leading international research, teaching and publications, he has also shifted how the medical community evaluates, diagnoses and treats patients with swallowing impairments (dysphagia).

“Before 1983, if you had a swallowing problem in the hospital, you got a feeding tube,” he says. “Now we know the problem may be a symptom of an underlying disorder, where a feeding tube might not be needed.”

Today when a patient is coughing, choking and having swallowing issues, medical staff know to call a speech pathologist to evaluate the condition.

By helping to establish a multidisciplinary intervention that includes speech pathology as a standard approach, Groher’s work has greatly expanded the scope of treatment options for dysphagia patients. That approach, he says, has also opened up more conversations about end-of-life care.

“Patients who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis or a similar condition know they will eventually experience swallowing impairments,” Groher says. “Now those patients can decide in advance whether they will want a feeding tube or if they want to manage the impairment with the help of a speech pathologist.”

Groher also oversees the University’s Truesdail Center for Communicative Disorders, a nonprofit agency where, under the supervision of clinically certified faculty, graduate students provide speech-language and hearing services to those with communication disorders.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recently honored Groher for his contributions to the field by awarding him its highest distinction: Honors of the Association.