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Speech-language researcher awarded top honors

Dr. Christine Dollaghan, a professor in UT Dallas' Callier Center for Communication Disorders, received the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's (ASHA) top award during this fall's national convention.

Dollaghan was selected for Honors of the Association, which recognizes members who have made distinguished contributions to the field of communication sciences and disorders. Recipients have earned the respect of colleagues around the world for long careers of innovative and insightful research, impressive clinical practice, outstanding teaching or for other significant accomplishments.

"The many ways in which (Dollaghan) has enhanced and altered the course of our professions is, in review, astounding," said Dr. Christopher Moore, scientific program manager for the Rehabilitation Research and Development Office of Research Development in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Moore nominated her for the honors.

"A consistent presence in the greater scientific and professional communities, Chris has dedicated an unbelievable amount of time to formulating and influencing the scientific directions of our discipline," Moore wrote in his nomination letter to the ASHA committee. "She has driven the development of key documents and policies, and has provided the scientific background for some of our most important policy decisions in the last 20 years."

Dollaghan's Handbook of Evidence-Based Practice in Communication Disorders is widely used by researchers, clinicians, faculty and students.

Dollaghan conducts research and teaches in The University of Texas at Dallas' School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS). She has played a leading role in shaping evidence-based practice in communication disorders, chairing ASHA's Research and Scientific Affairs Committee and the Advisory Committee on Evidence-based Practice.

In evidence-based practice, similar to evidence-based medicine, specific criteria are considered when evaluating the quality and credibility of evidence available to support clinical recommendations. The approach grew out of awareness of the limitations of expert opinion as the basis for making decisions regarding the assessment and treatment of individuals with communication and other disorders. Dollaghan's Handbook of Evidence-Based Practice in Communication Disorders is widely used by researchers, clinicians, faculty and students.

Dollaghan's work is credited with changing the course of research and clinical care in areas examining the mechanisms of word learning and the diagnostic assessments of child language, as well as recovery of communication skills in children who suffered traumatic brain injury.

She helped develop a nonword repetition test that is now a common tool for identifying language processing deficits in children from differing socioeconomic backgrounds.

"Through Dr. Dollaghan's research, we have a better understanding of the word-learning difficulty children with language disorders experience," wrote Dr. Jon Miller, professor emeritus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of a letter to ASHA supporting the nomination. "She found they take away less information about a new word heard only once, affecting both comprehension and production skills. Follow-up research revealed that a relatively simple task, repeating non-words, balanced for phonetic content, was a highly sensitive indicator of language disorder. This focused attention on evaluating basic language learning processes that can be assessed early in development."

Dollaghan has written many book chapters and journal articles and presented at conferences throughout the world. She has served as chairman of the ASHA's Science Advisory Board since 2008 and is an ASHA Fellow.

Dr. Ray Kent, professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, also helped nominate Dollaghan. He lauded her commitment to the profession and to students.

"(Dollaghan) presents lucid and information-packed lectures and fills out her schedule with individual and group mentoring sessions," he said. "She is strongly committed to the preparation of a new generation of scientists in our discipline, and she certainly is a model of scientific achievement."

Dr. Bert Moore, dean of BBS, described Dollaghan as a dedicated researcher and an enthusiastic teacher.

"We congratulate Dr. Dollaghan on receiving the highest honors from the American Speech- Language-Hearing Association," Moore said. "Often as a scientist, you are known for one, or maybe two, substantial contributions that evolve over your career. What is remarkable about Chris is the evolution of her work and the ways in which she continues to shape the field of language development and impairment in varied ways. Her intellectual curiosity and creative focus continue to impact the field in significant ways, and her colleagues and students here at UT Dallas are fortunate to be the beneficiaries of that creativity."

Dollaghan said she was surprised but pleased to hear that she would receive the association's Honors.

"One of the greatest things about science is the fact that it's a team sport," she said. "It has been a joy for me to learn from the many generous mentors and colleagues with whom I've played the game. I've also benefited from the many students who have challenged me to clarify my thinking and to live by the motto 'less is more.' "


Contact: Emily Martinez
University of Texas at Dallas

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