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Arnold School of Public Health

Speech-language pathology graduate plans career helping individuals with traumatic brain injuries

August 24, 2022 | Erin Bluvas,

Caroline Wood’s passion for helping others dates back to her preschool days. According to her teachers, three-year-old Wood always went out of her way to play with a classmate with cerebral palsy and make sure he was included.

“I think this was the foundation that led me to speech pathology,” the Lawrenceville, Georgia native says. “From there, my passion bloomed throughout my middle and high school education as I volunteered in different special education classes.”

Senior year, Wood learned about the speech-language pathology profession and decided to study communication sciences and disorders (COMD) at the University of Georgia. During the junior and senior years of her undergraduate program, she served as a caregiver for a woman who had experienced a traumatic brain injury. Each week, Wood helped her client work on her goals, explore the Athens area and volunteer at local schools.

After her 2020 graduation, Wood decided to pursue an M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology at UofSC because the program offered a wide range of experiences for students to explore. Through her clinical rotations, Wood gained experience with the COMD department’s Montgomery Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic as well as a local elementary and private pediatric practice. The program’s network of clinical opportunities even found placements for Wood in hospital and rehabilitation settings back home in Georgia.

On campus, Wood worked closely with Jean Neils-Strunjas in the COMD professor/chair’s Aging Gracefully Lab. Together, they researched nonpharmaceutical interventions for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s in older adults. They also co-authored a scholarly paper.

“While working as her graduate assistant, Dr. Neils-Strunjas fostered my love for research and taught me a multitude of professional and clinical skills,” Wood says.

"Caroline began her work in COMD during the pandemic and has shown amazing resilience and persistence in all areas of her graduate program: clinical practice, academic coursework, and in research," Neils-Strunjas says. "She mentored undergraduate students in our Aging Gracefully Lab, including Katelyn Nguyen, who was accepted into the residential speech-language program."

Next, the August graduate will pursue her one-year clinical fellowship to officially enter the speech-language pathology profession. She’s interested in working with individuals who have experienced traumatic brain injuries and anoxic (i.e., oxygen deficient) brain injuries. Long term, Wood would like to work in an inpatient rehabilitation center or long-term acute care hospital.

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