Mary K. Chapman Speech and Hearing Clinic offers support to the community for 50 years - The University of Tulsa
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Mary K. Chapman Speech and Hearing Clinic offers support to the community for 50 years

Several years ago, Jennifer Youngberg and her husband were searching for an affordable speech therapist for their son, Oliver, when a friend told her about The University of Tulsa’s Mary K. Chapman Speech and Hearing Clinic.

Soon, the young boy was enrolled and making strides. Oliver was diagnosed with apraxia of speech, a speech sound disorder. During the next several years, Youngberg said the family went from understanding Oliver about 10% of the time to understanding him well when he speaks slowly. His sister, Brekken, also took part in the clinic.

“It was amazing. I’ve shed lots of tears in that clinic – good, happy, joyful tears,” Youngberg said.

The Chapman Clinic recently celebrated 50 years of helping local residents like Oliver and Brekken as well as preparing students interested in careers in speech-language pathology and audiology.

“We provide services to individuals of all ages, including speech-language pathology evaluations and services and audiology evaluations,” said Suzanne Stanton, department chair and Chapman Clinical Associate Professor of Speech-Language Pathology. “These services are greatly needed in our community.”

TU began offering a speech with theatre emphasis degree program in the early 1950s, with classes on diction, costuming, and radio broadcasting, but it was not until 1957 that the university first listed classes related to audiology, hearing clinics and therapy. In 1958, the degree became known exclusively as a speech degree, featuring a variety of courses focused on both performing arts and speech pathology. Then, in 1962, speech pathology was listed for the first time as a separately designated degree.

In the 1970s, H.A. Chapman generously contributed funds to support construction of an on-campus facility that would house the academic program and fulfill the Tulsa community’s needs, naming it in honor of his wife, Mary, who was a nurse. The Chapman Foundation continues to support the clinic, which serves more than 100 patients a year on average and provides free or low-cost treatment to individuals who might otherwise have gone without aid. In addition to children, the clinic works with adults of all ages who have suffered from strokes, traumatic brain injuries, or other communication disorders. Some services are also available via telemedicine.

Speaking to the importance of the clinic’s work with adult patients, Stanton says, “imagine that you can’t talk after an injury, and you have no resources. Sometimes, hospitals provide short-term care, but if you’re no longer working and your insurance comes through work, you can run out of money quickly if you wake up and can no longer speak, think, or work. We provide scholarships through our foundation, which is either free or low-cost.”

Within the clinic there are smaller specialty clinics that treat various communication impairments. One is the TU Concussion Center, a cross-disciplinary clinic involving speech-language pathology, psychology, and athletic training that focuses on those who have received concussions, particularly sports-related concussions. Care is free of charge through the support of the Chapman Foundation.

“There’s not another clinic that offers the same depth of services and serves all age groups. Other clinics, like private practices, either do adults or children, but we can serve almost everyone. We don’t turn anyone away because of the generous funding we have available,” Stanton said.

For TU students, the Chapman Clinic provides on-campus pre-professional experience for those studying for a master’s degree in speech-language pathology and proudly boasts a 100% employment placement rate for graduates of the program.

“Speech-language pathology and audiology professionals and students are devoted to service by working in clinical settings in order to identify and enhance communication and swallowing disorders, as well as by conducting research that contributes to new knowledge in the field,” said  Paula Cadogan, a retired faculty member and former chair of the Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders. “Faculty in our program are dedicated to students and their clients and are an amazing group of people.”

Cadogan also said the clinic is an invaluable resource for Tulsa-area residents.

“The community benefits from the state-of-the-art services provided at the clinic, including hearing evaluations, treatment of various kinds of communication disorders such as speech sound, developmental language and literacy, voice, fluency, aphasia and so forth,” she said. “The community also benefits from the availability of young professionals who become employed at various locations throughout the local and state areas.”

Information about the Mary K. Chapman Clinic is available on the TU website.