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Arnold School of Public Health


COMD graduate plans to work with adults and children in a medical setting

August 13, 2015 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

Julie Byard not only has two degrees from the University of South Carolina—she has them from two different campuses. She graduated from USC Upstate with a Bachelor of Science in English and taught high school English in Spartanburg District Six Schools for six years. She served as a Resource Teacher for an additional year.

“As a teacher, I taught several students with hearing impairments who benefited from hearing aids and/or cochlear implants,” she says. “These students were inspiring and I wanted to learn more about their experiences with hearing loss.” As her interest grew, she spoke with friends in the medical field who agreed that speech-language pathology seemed like a good fit for her. “After much debate, I decided to take the plunge and return to school full-time as a graduate student,” says Byard. This time she enrolled in the Master of Speech Pathology program at USC’s main campus in Columbia, where the Arnold School of Public Health’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (COMD) is located.

Originally from North Carolina, Byard calls South Carolina home after more than a decade as a resident. She spent two years of that decade immersed in her graduate program and, notably, COMD’s Auditory-Verbal Therapy Specialization Group. This meant extra classes focused on aural habilitation (i.e., therapy to improve communication with children who have not yet developed spoken language prior to a diagnosis of hearing loss and receiving hearing aids/cochlear implants) and aural rehabilitation (i.e., multifaceted therapy for adults with hearing loss acquired after the development of spoken language fitted with  hearing aids/cochlear implants). “I treated patients with hearing impairments each semester and completed a final internship specializing in therapy utilizing the Auditory-Verbal Therapy approach,” Byard explains.

She also served as a research assistant in USC’s South Carolina Research on Language and Literacy (SCROLL) Lab. There, she combined her professional experience with her program training to help Assistant Professor Suzanne Adlof on the “Developing an Online Tutor to Accelerate High School Vocabulary Acquisition” project. “My work centered on ensuring students had informative contexts to reference while learning new vocabulary,” Byard says.

Adlof, who Byard admires for her ability to manage multiple projects with great poise, was one of several exceptional mentors who helped shape her Arnold School experience. “She helped me find my voice—to share my opinions and make me feel like a valued member of the team,” Byard says. Gina Crosby-Quinatoa, a senior clinical instructor at the USC Speech and Hearing Research Center, also made an impact on Byard. “She taught me how to think like a therapist, how to take the data gathered from a diagnostic session and see the bigger picture,” she says. Finally, Associate Research Professor Hiram McDade always urges students to remember the human side of what they do. “Dr. McDade encourages us to remember that the patients we treat are first and foremost people – someone’s child, wife, husband, mother, father, brother, sister – and should always be treated as a person and not a disorder,” she says.

Byard received the 2015 Outstanding Student Award in Communication Sciences & Disorders for the Master of Speech Pathology program and the 2014 Sharon G. Webber Endowed Fellowship Fund. An August graduate, she plans to treat adults and/or pediatric patients in a medical setting once her speech-language pathologist license is issued in September. “One aspect of speech-language pathology that I find appealing is the variety of fields available within the profession,” she says.

Now Byard has advice for those who follow in her footsteps: do it! “USC’s Communication Sciences and Disorders program is excellent,” she says. “The professors and clinical instructors in the program are extremely passionate and knowledgeable about their specialties, but more importantly, they are eager to share this knowledge to prepare future speech-language pathologists.”