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Arnold School of Public Health

I Am Public Health: Sydney Bassard

July 1, 2019 | Erin Bluvas,

Master of Speech Pathology student Sydney Bassard will wrap up six years at UofSC next month. She fell in love with the campus during a visit as a high school senior, but her transformation was only just beginning.

Bassard originally began her Gamecock journey as a pre-pharmacy major, but half way through her undergraduate tenure, both her family and her academic lives shifted to new paths. Bassard’s then-sixth grade brother was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and made tremendous progress (e.g., working independently, reading aloud, getting all As) thanks to the support he received at Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes.

The Charlotte, North Carolina native was so impressed with the international resource center’s sensory-cognitive instruction that she applied for a summer job with the program helping children improve their literacy skills. That fall, Bassard switched her major to public health and immersed herself in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (COMD) with the goal of pursuing a career in speech-language pathology.

“Speech pathology is an ever growing and changing field with such diverse client populations and settings, that if you want to make an impactful change on an individual’s life you can,” Bassard says. “It is truly a collaborative field whether it is with audiologist, physical therapist, or other speech pathologists, you are constantly working as a team for the holistic care of your client.”

For her senior Capstone project, Bassard worked with COMD chair Kenn Apel to view communication disorders through a public health lens – gaining a better understanding of how the two fields interact to influence issues such as conducting speech and language screenings, discussing signs and symptoms of a communication disorder, and providing a way for all clients to communicate with health professionals. Bassard also began working with Krystal Werfel in the assistant professor’s Written Language Lab, which she continued doing when she enrolled in the department’s master of speech pathology program in 2017. 

“Working with Dr. Werfel as an undergraduate really solidified my decision to continue my education here at USC,” Bassard says. “I observed how she took interest in her students and encouraged them to do more than the basic requirements. That was the kind of training I wanted to receive, especially at the master’s level.”

During her program, Bassard conducted research in language and literacy outcomes for children with hearing loss. She is committed to exploring more effective assessments and treatment options for children from cultural and linguistic diverse populations and plans to engage in outreach activities related to these areas as a clinician and as a researcher if she returns to graduate school to earn a Ph.D.

Under her mentor’s guidance, Bassard had the opportunity to run an internally-funded project. As project coordinator on a study of the prevalence of children with reading impairment and minimal hearing loss, Bassard gained leadership and research experience.

“I did not feel as though I could handle such a responsibility, but she fully supported me,” Bassard says. “She has allowed me to openly and honestly discuss diversity in an up-building way. Dr. Werfel has truly pushed me to new heights that I never thought possible for myself.”

In 2018, Bassard’s promise as a rising star in the field was further demonstrated when she was one of 11 students nationwide to be chosen to receive the Students Preparing for Academic-Research Careers Award from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. In 2019, she won the Jeffrey Keith Mattison Outstanding Student Achievement Award – the first from her department to do so – from the Arnold School of Public Health.  

“The Arnold School of Public Health has taught me so much over the past six years,” Bassard says. “I’m incredibly thankful for the scholar, future researcher and clinician it has helped me to become.”


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