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Arnold School of Public Health


I Am Public Health: Julia Porter

February 2, 2015 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

A career aptitude test matched Julia Porter with Speech-Language Pathologist during her freshman year at Butler University in Indianapolis. Curiosity about this unfamiliar occupation led her to take a few courses and complete some observation hours. She learned that this career path would allow her to be creatively scientific and empower others (i.e., patients) to effectively communicate in their everyday environments. Attracted to the variety in the field and the emphasis on lifelong learning, Porter made Communication Sciences and Disorders (COMD) her major.

Porter chose to pursue a Master of Speech Pathology degree within the Arnold School’s COMD department due to its challenging program, opportunities for medically-focused coursework and outstanding clinical faculty. She has already completed a clinical rotation at the Augusta VA Medical Center and is currently engaged in a rotation at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center. Porter also chose the Arnold School because the COMD department offers additional opportunities for courses and work with special interest populations. As a result, she joined the neurogenic specialization track which introduced her to “neuro talks” on various special topics and engagement in community support groups, such as the Stuttering Support Group at the USC Speech & Hearing Research Center.

As a graduate research assistant in the Speech Perception Lab, Porter helps the Lab conduct research to improve speech understanding under adverse listening conditions (e.g., a noisy restaurant) and improve the programming of assistive listening devices, such as hearing aids and cochlear implants. She also had the opportunity to investigate the effects of two different treatments for patients based on their stroke lesion sites as part of a study at the Aphasia Lab. “Being able to provide clinical services as a part of an important study was something I would not have found at every COMD graduate program,” she says. 

Porter believes she has especially benefited from the rich mentor environment that COMD fosters. She has learned a lot about the research process from Assistant Professor Daniel Fogerty, who is also the Director of the Speech Perception Lab. “He is extremely knowledgeable regarding his field and speaks research like it is his first language,” explains Porter. She also appreciates the COMD practicum placement supervisors, Dianne Dixon and Juliana Miller, whose guidance has helped Porter obtain the hands-on experience that led her to the Arnold School in the first place.

After she graduates this summer, Porter plans to begin her Clinical Fellowship Year, which is a mandatory transition year between completing a COMD program and becoming an independent provider of speech-language pathology clinical services. She would eventually like to earn her Certificate of Clinical Competence. “I hope to work in an acute (i.e., evaluation) or sub-acute (i.e., rehabilitation) care setting as I am particularly interested in patients with neurogenic communication disorders, such as those that typically follow a traumatic brain injury or stroke,” says Porter.