Emily Overbaugh is a speech pathologist at MossRehab Collegeville who has earned different certifications to support her clinical interests in concussion, Parkinson’s disease, and voice disorders. She currently co-leads the Concussion Special Interest Group at MossRehab where multidisciplinary clinicians meet to share knowledge.
We spoke with Emily about her background, journey to MossRehab, and her experience with the LSVT BIG and LOUD program for Parkinson’s patients.
What made you decide to become a speech pathologist?
My mom was a preschool teacher and a very good one. I initially wanted to follow that path but discovered speech pathology and fell in love with it. Observing speech pathologists in high school confirmed my career choice. Once I got into training, I shifted from working with children to adults.
What is your educational background?
I earned my BA in Hearing and Speech Sciences and MA in Speech Pathology at the University of Maryland. As treating patients with concussions and Parkinson’s diseases are two of my primary clinical interests, I earned certifications to receive extra training in those areas. In 2016, I received my LSVT LOUD Certification, which is a protocol for working with patients with Parkinson’s disease in improving their speech and voice as part of the LSVT LOUD program. In the past year, I earned my Certified Brain Injury Specialist (CBIS) certification through the Brain Injury Association that requires a candidate to have at least 500 hours of direct contact experience with brain injury patients.
Where did you work before joining MossRehab?
My first job was in a community hospital in Hanover, PA, where I did a bit of everything from inpatient and outpatient care to working with pediatric and geriatric patients. It was a good experience to learn my strengths and interests.
What made you decide to work at MossRehab?
When I moved back to the Philadelphia area after getting married, I knew MossRehab had an excellent reputation. I started working per diem jobs here until I got the full-time position. By initially working per diem, I got a feel for the culture and appreciated the value placed on speech therapy. Even as a per diem employee, my opinion mattered. I’ve been with MossRehab for about five years and currently work at the Collegeville location.
How has your experience been at MossRehab?
I am friends with many of my co-workers. I know their struggles and admire how they put on a smile and give their best when working with patients. I love my co-workers; we have strong bonds both personally and professionally. In addition to my colleagues at Collegeville, I work with clinicians throughout the network, especially with the more experienced speech pathologists. One of my mentors is Roberta Brooks, who has worked at MossRehab as a speech pathologist for over 25 years. She shares a wealth of information with all of us in the network and a dear friend. I also get to interact with like-minded therapists in different special interest groups.
What kind of patients do you treat?
My caseload primarily consists of patients with Parkinson’s, stroke, traumatic brain injury, and other neurological diseases or processes. I also have patients with voice disorders referred by ear, nose, and throat doctors. In addition, I see individuals with swallowing disorders related to a multitude of medical issues and those with cognitive-communicative concerns caused by a stroke or brain injury or sometimes an unknown cause. So, I work with a diverse clientele.
Can you describe a typical day providing physical therapy?
Every day is different. A typical day can include treatments that range from voice, swallowing, speech to cognition challenges or a combination of them. For instance, someone who experienced a stroke may have concerns about speech intelligibility, swallowing issues as well as communication or cognitive difficulties. Initially, I start with an assessment that includes discussing patient challenges and what they want to work on in therapy. From there, I can determine the best therapy custom-tailored to a patient. This way, they have a voice in their treatment.
Can you describe an LSVT therapy session?
The LSVT-LOUD program is a highly structured speech therapy program for patients with Parkinson’s disease. Following specific protocols, patients complete certain exercises that promote loudness and clear speech. Training incorporates individual’s interests and progresses each week, with exercises getting more difficult. For instance, a patient interested in golf may read single words from a glossary the first week while trying to achieve normal loudness. The next week, he/she would read sentences and then move into paragraphs. Eventually, the patient would engage in full conversations about golf or any topic of interest.
An important element of the program is completing assigned carryover tasks at home such as practicing talking with a loud voice. That might mean saying good morning or answering the phone in a loud voice. Patients have even left me voicemails. The real-world practice is the most important factor in therapy. While the LOUD program is focused on Parkinson’s patients, research is investigating the use of the same principles to other populations. I have applied some principles to other patients but have not done the entire program for someone with a diagnosis other than Parkinson’s. But I could see that being the case in the future.
Can you describe your role in the Concussion Special Interest Group?
Katie Herrero, a MossRehab physical therapist, and I lead the Concussion Special Interest Group. We’ve had presentations from different areas of rehab including occupational therapy for vision impairments, physical therapy for dizziness, and neuropsychology. Every quarter, a MossRehab employee within the group from a different discipline shares their knowledge with us. As patients recovering from concussions can experience a range of issues with mood, emotions, sleep, pain, dizziness, cognition, etc., it’s important to understand these aspects. Our most recent meeting, the first since the COVID hit, focused on the patient’s perspective. Carole Starr, who wrote the book To Root and To Rise about accepting brain injury from a patient perspective, was our guest speaker.
What are your interests outside of work?
I have a beautiful toddler who is my main interest outside of work - keeping up with her is an everyday adventure. I also enjoy different music genres and spending too much time at Target. My husband and I used to explore new breweries, wineries, and restaurants but we put that on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I also like to spend time with my family, especially down the shore in Wildwood, NJ.
Who has made a strong influence on your life?
I’m fortunate that many people inspired and shaped me. My grandmother had a big personal and professional influence on me. She was a model of kindness, love, and respect for other people. She loved to learn and passed that on to me. Unfortunately, she passed away from a brain tumor in her 70s. When working with patients having brain cancer, I think about the providers that cared for my grandmother. It impacts the way I treat and work with them. I also understand the struggles that families go through with someone having this diagnosis.
Sam’s Pizza on the Wildwood boardwalk on 26th Street.
Something people don’t know about you?
I sing at weddings and funerals. It’s special to be a part of an important day and bring comfort to those who need it. I also use my singing background to help in speech therapy. And I sing with my daughter all the time. She loves it. I like to introduce to her songs that I love. I think that music brings people together.
I try to follow the concept introduced by Brené Brown in her book Rising Strong. She writes “everyone is doing the best they can.” If you approach other people and yourself that way, you might treat people and yourself a little bit better. So, if someone is annoying or bothering you, just might remind yourself that they’re doing their best. You might be a little kinder to them. On a daily basis, be a little gentler on yourself. I don’t know if I’m living that motto but I’m trying to remind myself that I’m doing the best I can and so is everyone else.
Learn more about MossRehab’s LSVT-LOUD program for individuals with Parkinson’s Disease.
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