'I feel as though I’m truly taking steps toward become a well-rounded future academic...'
Studying towards a PhD in Speech and Language Sciences
After having studied a Bachelor of Science in Communication Science and Disorders at the University of Missouri-Columbia and later a Master of Science in Medical Speech Language Pathology at the University of Washington, Kristin understands and emphasises the importance her research has on daily health.
‘In addition to basic human functions such as survival and nutrition, eating and drinking play a great role in our day to day lives and relationships,’ she says. ‘Whether it’s morning tea at work, toasting with bubbles at a wedding, lamb and roasted veg for the holidays – eating is an integral part of how we connect with our friends and family. Losing the ability to safely and effectively swallow therefore will not only have substantial health risks, but can be socially isolating leading to a profound deficit on a person’s quality of life.’
It is this level of effect swallowing disorders have on people’s health that lead Kristin to travel down form the USA to begin research at UC.
‘I enjoy studying at Canterbury because the Department of Communication Disorders and specifically the UC Swallowing Rehabilitation Research Laboratory encourage a lot of collaboration between students. For example, our swallowing lab has a standing lab meeting every Friday where we update on progress, talk about current articles or topics of interest, and generally learn together.’
Kristin especially enjoys the support she receives through her mentors who are highly regarded in their field.
‘I chose to study at Canterbury because of my mentor, Dr Maggie-Lee Huckabee. Dr Huckabee is a world-renowned researcher in the field of swallowing, and her research laboratory is arguably the most sophisticated of its kind in the southern hemisphere. But above and beyond that, Dr Huckabee is an incredible teacher, and caring supervisor. Her passion for her work is contagious.
‘Additionally, my co-mentor Prof Richard Jones (who recently won the UC Supervisor of the Year award) is a Biomedical Engineer and brings insight to my field of study from another field and viewpoint. Having two such supportive mentors has made this PhD program better than I could have hoped!’
Kristin’s research has led her to work with a number of organisations, including work overseas. Previously, Kristin had the opportunity to travel to Singapore to work with clinical researchers at Singapore General Hospital in preparation for her international research project. Her study has also involved working with patients at the UC Swallowing Rehabilitation Research Laboratory.
She has presented her thesis at the Biomouth Symposium in Dunedin, at the Neurology Department Grand Rounds at Christchurch Hospital and at Communication Disorders lectures (her thesis winning first place at the UC Showcase competition). Her involvement in a pilot study with visiting clinicians was also presented at the Dysphagia Research Society Annual Meeting in Nashville. Her research has given her many scholarship grants through UC.
Alongside study, Kristin also works at Stewart Street Specialists medical clinic as an Administrative Assistant.
‘I feel as though I’m truly taking steps toward become a well-rounded future academic, learning how to improve upon and balance time management between patients, research projects and presentations. I have developed a focused passion for the area of dysphagia, and feel great pride contributing to the evidence base from which clinicians can make sound evaluation and treatment decisions.
‘There is such a need for quality research and the professorial staff at UC provides an outstanding group of mentors from which to learn. Plus – I get to live in New Zealand while I’m at it… can it get better than that?!’