Faculty member becomes only board-certified swallowing specialist in West Virginia

Pam Holland, director of clinical education for Marshall University’s Department of Communication Disorders, has received board certification in swallowing and swallowing disorders (BCS-S), making her the only swallowing specialist in West Virginia certified by the American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders. Holland, a speech-language pathologist (SLP) in the university’s Speech and Hearing Center, said she has been working on this certification for four years.

“I made the decision to begin the process in 2013 after founding and opening the university’s Feeding and Swallowing Clinic,” Holland said. “I obtained a mentor through the American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders and started my journey of specialized study and training. The process generally takes three to five years. I took my time as I continued to find new projects and training to participate in. Once all of the requirements are met and your application is approved, you sit for the examination. I passed the examination in November of 2018.”

According to the American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders, a SLP who is a board-certified specialist in swallowing and swallowing disorders maintains exceptional, high-level skills and clinical experience in the evaluation and treatment of swallowing disorders. Holland said having this specialization will benefit the community as well as provide Marshall students with unique opportunities for continued learning and research.

“Since becoming certified, I have worked collaboratively with the West Virginia Department of Education to develop guidelines for SLPs working in the school system who provide services to children with feeding and swallowing disorders,” Holland said. “I think having a board-certified specialist involved with the Feeding and Swallowing Clinic offers children and families in the community a feeling that they can receive the best services without traveling distances.”

In addition to her work with the state’s Department of Education, Holland has evaluated infants and children in Healthy Connections, KIDS clinic and Project Hope for Women and Children. She said research indicates children born exposed to opioids have disorganized feeding skills, which poses a growing threat in the Tri-State region. For the last two semesters, she has co-taught a course titled The Role of Healthcare Professionals in the Opioid Epidemic: Prevention, Intervention, and Community Efforts. Holland said graduate students enrolled in this course have been offered the opportunity to visit and volunteer at Cabell Huntington Hospital in the Neonatal Transition Unit and observe firsthand the feeding and swallowing challenges infants face. She is currently developing an elective course specific to pediatric feeding and swallowing disorders for which both students and SLPs in the community can register.

Holland said she wants to spread awareness about swallowing disorders, or dysphagia, and how they can lead to serious and even fatal complications if not evaluated accurately and treated effectively.