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Lindsey Byom, PhD, CCC-SLP and assistant professor in the division of Speech and Hearing Sciences within the Department of Allied Health Sciences, has received a K23 award from the NIH, National Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

The career development award is patient-focused and specific to clinical research – recipients must hold some type of clinical certification, including Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs). In addition to conducting research specific to her interests, Byom will have the opportunity to take courses and receive mentorship that will further develop her skills as a researcher.

Project Details

The project will focus communication difficulties experienced by some adults who have traumatic brain injuries (TBI), specifically TBI-related social communication impairments (TBI-SCI). TBI-SCI is characterized by ineffective, disorganized and inappropriate verbal communication along with reduced capacity to understand others’ non-literal and nonverbal messages. Assessing TBI-SCI needs and progress over time is limited because SLPs lack reliable and valid assessment tools that can be used in clinical settings.

“Many people who experience TBI are able to recover their language skills such as speech, grammar and vocabulary, but over time they may struggle to use that language effectively in social settings, which can be frustrating,” says Byom. “How we use language is dependent on context, which makes it hard to measure and assess in a clinical setting. Our goal is to develop new patient reported outcome tools and caregiver reported tools to help clinically measure social communication.”

Byom plans to partner with adults with TBI and their family members to identify what is most important to them in their daily lives in relation to communication. Additionally, interviewing SLPs will be critical to learn what they can feasibly accomplish in the fast paced clinical setting with regard to social communication rehab, as well as the information they may need to gather for proper patient assessment.

Based on the responses received from each group, Byom and her team will focus on developing tools for assessment and tracking progress that can be used by SLPs as they treat patients with TBI-SCI in clinical settings.

“I’m excited to build strong networks within the TBI and SLP communities, and I’m looking forward to learning more about patient-centered rehab, instrument development and clinical tool implementation from my mentors,” says Byom. “I’m eager to take the theoretical research I’ve been doing and apply it in clinical settings.”

Opportunities for Career Growth

Byom was trained as a clinician and the majority of her work has focused on understanding the core skills or cognitive abilities related to communication that can be addressed in rehab for those with brain injuries.

In addition to working with multiple mentors, Byom anticipates graduate students in the SLP program will have the opportunity to work as research assistants on the project. “We have great graduate students in this program, and they’re interested in engaged research,” she says. “I had many great research experiences that were critical to my career development, so I’m excited to share this opportunity with our graduate students as well.”