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JU launches first undergraduate class in new Speech-Language Pathology program

The first undergraduate class in the JU College of Health Science’s new Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders is now under way, and it’s not just any course. It’s the bedrock on the pathway leading to other critical courses – and future careers – in speech-language pathology.

JU's Dr. Sharon DiFino

Dr. Sharon DiFino, assistant professor of Speech and Language Pathology in the new department, launched CSD 301 – Speech Anatomy and Physiology – this month with her first group of students, and is excited about helping lay the groundwork for undergraduate and future graduate work in speech-language pathology at Jacksonville University.

“This is one of the most crucial foundational courses in Communication Sciences Disorders,” she said. “Seven students were present for this historical event, and the majority expressed interest in pursuing CSD as a major at JU.”

JU recently hired national leader Dr. Christine Sapienza, chair for the past eight years of the University of Florida’s highly ranked department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, as associate dean of the College of Health Sciences, and she is building its speech pathology programs.

“I cannot be prouder of our JU department of CSD and of having Dr. DiFino as a core undergraduate teacher and advisor,” Sapienza said. “This is just the start for us; we are ready to grow as more of the community learns about our new program offerings.”

A master’s degree is generally required for a career in the growing speech-language pathology field, and JU is on track to fulfill the requirements for accreditation in order to begin the region’s first master’s degree in speech-language pathology by fall 2014.

“CSD 301 is the mortar in the foundation for clinical and therapeutic work in motor speech, swallowing disorders, feeding disorders and voice disorders because it provides an overview of anatomy, physiology and neurophysiology of the speech production mechanism,” DiFino said. “Students will thoroughly study the structure of the oral, laryngeal and respiratory systems for the production of sounds, swallowing and breathing.”

Knowledge gained from the class helps in the treatment of individuals with a broad range of disorders and diseases affecting the speech mechanism, such as Parkinson’s, MS, ALS, stroke and voice disorders, she added.

“Many of the students in this first class have different professional backgrounds and bring different life experiences to the program, something that contributes to a diverse JU campus,” DiFino said. “The students and I are all excited to be a part of the new Speech Pathology program at JU and look forward to serving the Jacksonville community as future speech and language pathologists and clinicians.”

For more about JU’s College of Health Sciences and its new Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, visit http://ju.edu/COHS.