Midori Rodriguez, a speech-language pathology (SLP) graduate student at Misericordia University in Dallas, Penn., was awarded the 2014 Von Drach Memorial Scholarship by the Pennsylvania Speech-Language-Hearing Association (PSHA) at the 55th annual Convention, "Champions for Clinical Excellence & Innovative Practice,'' in Pittsburgh, Penn., in April.
The 2014 award marks the seventh consecutive year a SLP student from Misericordia University has received the prestigious scholarship. The award is given annually to an outstanding student from one of Pennsylvania's 14 SLP schools in honor of Dr. Robert Von Drach. Recipients are students who exhibit strong leadership abilities, outstanding academic performance, exceptional clinical skills, and scholarship within the profession.
At Misericordia, Rodriguez has been a member of the department's National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NSSLHA) since 2010, the NSSLHA Local Chapter since 2008, and a National Stuttering Association (NSA) member and chapter leader since 2013. She also has maintained a 4.0 grade point average in her graduate work studies, while also gaining clinical experience at the Misericordia University Speech-Language and Hearing Center.
"A hallmark of Midori's work is that she is an exceptional student who performs in the top 1% of my class in all her assignments and academic performance,'' said Glen Tellis, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Speech-Language Pathology at Misericordia University and interim dean of the College of Health Sciences. "She reads beyond the textbook and devours research articles to obtain a bigger picture about our field. She is inquisitive, insightful, and is constantly probing her professors for more information.
"Midori's critical thinking skills are among the best we've seen in our teaching and clinical careers. In the classroom, Midori's questions and participation in discussions also were reflective of her strong intellect and her ability to think outside the box. She often raised questions that went beyond the basic material and reflected a mindfulness of the connection between class content and her clinical work,'' Tellis added.
Rodriguez's drive to succeed as a student and as a clinician, in large part, was fueled by her late grandmother's struggle with Alzheimer's disease. "As I began my journey at Misericordia, my grandmother entered the late stages of Alzheimer's disease,'' Rodriguez said during her acceptance speech. "Throughout my intense and devoted first-year of graduate school, I witnessed the loss of her ability to communicate. While this downfall was painstaking to see, her strength and determination were evermore present as she fought to maintain the simplest forms of communication. I undoubtedly believe that my passion to give back to others is fueled both by my family's and clients' drive and determination to overcome or manage their own communication disorders.''
Indicative of her own self-determination and empathy, Rodriguez co-founded the first Northeast Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Stuttering Association on the campus of Misericordia University. Today, about 20 people who stutter participate in the bi-weekly support group. Along with her fellow classmates, Terrence Murgallis and Abriel McCann, she also launched and organized the Facebook page, www.facebook.com/MisericordiaUniversity StutteringSupportGroup; chapter website, www.misericordia.edu/slp, and a 5K walk/run all in support of people who stutter.
Rodriguez also has participated in numerous research projects with her mentors, Dr. Tellis and Hunter Manasco, Ph.D., associate professor, and presented their findings at state and national conferences. She has presented 11 scientific presentations at four professional conferences and is the first author on an article submitted for publication in the journal, Perspectives on Fluency and Fluency Disorders.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation recognized her contributions to the field when it awarded her one of only 16 foundation scholarships from among 118 national applicants. Geisinger HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Danville, Pa., accepted her for a fieldwork placement during the spring semester.
"Midori has demonstrated a commitment to serving her clients from early on in her pre-professional career,'' said Tellis. "Her knowledge of clinical procedures and her ability to relate theory to actual practice with persons exhibiting communication disorders across the lifespan is excellent.''