For Coral Connor ’18, the path to a career in speech-language pathology has been long and winding, but full of moments of triumph. “I was working in finance prior to starting down this career path,” said Connor. “Getting into this field was part serendipity and part research.” Through interactions with speech-language pathologists she discovered a profession which combines her passion for helping others with her interest in language and cognition.
“Turn your trials into triumph.”
Her personal mantra is “turn your trials into triumph.” She said, “I think many individuals we work with live this.” She emphasized the importance of listening to clients to uncover what success means to them, so you can work together to achieve that goal. “I’m always surprised by the resilience of our clients. I find their tenacity really inspiring.”
She shared about her experience working with a Cambodian client at the Pacific Speech, Hearing and Language Center whose language had been impacted by a stroke. “He knew what he wanted to work on in therapy. Getting his input and integrating his goals into therapy made it more functional for him and more enjoyable for us both.”
Another interaction that resonated with her was during her time facilitating the Sacramento VA Medical Center’s aphasia group. “A new member arrived, and he just started to cry,” she said. The client shared with the group how he would go to the grocery store and when he tried to communicate with the cashier, he had difficulty finding the words. Through the support group, “he found a room of people who understood his struggles and could provide some hope.”
Since 2015, she has volunteered with the Head Trauma Support Project, a support group for individuals who have moderate to severe acquired brain injuries. “It is really cool that we’ve created a safe space for people with brain injuries to interact with other people who can relate,” Connor said. “Some of the clients have been coming for 30 years.”
Connor received the 2018 Janet Nimtz Endowed Scholarship. “I was thrilled to receive the scholarship,” she said. “It has been an unbelievable honor, validating professionally and personally.” Receiving the scholarship has allowed her to seriously consider pursuing work in a medical setting after graduation. “I am very interested in anatomy and neurology. The collaboration with other health care professionals has always been appealing to me.”
She is currently completing an externship at University of California, Davis Medical Center, where she has the opportunity to work with patients across the lifespan in inpatient, acute rehabilitation and outpatient settings. She welcomes the opportunity to explore post-graduate options. “After graduation I hope to obtain a clinical fellowship in an acute or post-acute medical setting.” To connect with Connor, contact her at email@example.com or through LinkedIn.
By Anne Marie H. Bergthold