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Arnold School of Public Health

Speech-language pathology graduate hopes to work with pediatric and older adult populations

July 26, 2022 | Erin Bluvas,

Daniela Caruso’s path to becoming a speech-language pathologist began at her part-time job during college. She was working as a teacher at the Gymboree Play and Music Gym when a parent complimented her one-on-one connections with children and suggested a career in the field.

“Unlike most of my classmates who had a personal experience with speech therapy or had a close family member who had attended speech therapy or knew a speech therapist, I started on a very different road,” Caruso says. “I began college studying business law, but after this suggestion, I investigated the career and immediately fell in love with the profession. I made the switch and never looked back.”

Mexico-born and -raised, Caruso was studying at New Mexico State University when she had this epiphany. She completed a bachelor’s of education in communication disorders (minor in Spanish) followed by a graduate certificate of special education in autism before turning her focus to master’s degree programs. The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders’ (COMD) Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology – Distance Education program enabled Caruso to earn her graduate degree while gaining experience as a speech-language pathologist assistant.

In parallel, Caruso amassed clinical experience through rotations in private practice, rehabilitation, hospital and elementary school settings. She also conducted research, leading a project (Effects of a Rhythmic vs Non-rhythmic Approach to Memory Retention) for which she and her team won first place in their cohort.

“I have learned to love both pediatrics and geriatrics, for very different reasons,” Caruso says. “I love the habilitation aspect of pediatrics, and the excitement from parents and children when that communication bridge is reached. From my time working with the geriatric population, I found that I love working with dysphagia and having the ability to help a patient get back to eating their favorite meals.”

Inside and outside of the program, Caruso has found mentors in the field. In addition to some current speech-language pathologists who have offered inspiration, Caruso has looked to COMD clinical assistant professor and graduate director Beth Barnes and other faculty members for guidance. After graduating in August and completing her clinical fellowship, Caruso hopes to take a path less traveled.

“I would love to continue to work with both pediatric and geriatric populations so I do not lose my knowledge, training and skillsets,” she says. “I also hope to be able to teach either as a clinical instructor or professor at a university. It would be amazing to share my passion for the profession with others.”

Regardless of where she lands, there’s one habit she plans to carry forward. As a student of a department that values preparing not just clinicians but clinical scientists, Caruso intends to remain informed of evidence-based practices. She has already begun looking at research articles on a weekly basis to ensure her treatment is aligned with the most recent scientific research. Membership in the El Paso Speech and Hearing Association has also kept Caruso up-to-date and exposed her to new areas of interest.

“It has been an honor to aid others and also be an advocate for the speech-language pathology community,” Caruso says. “It has not been an easy journey but with the love and support of my husband, my family, my pups and my cohort – who I now consider to be some of my best friends – I was able to finish. Although it is a tough career to pursue it is extremely rewarding as well, and I am proud to say that I love what I do and feel incredibly excited to become a licensed speech-language pathologist.”

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