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$410,260 NIH Grant Supports Research on Prevention of Voice Disorders

Grillo joined the WCU faculty in 2006. She
holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence
in Speech Language Pathology (CCC-SLP). After
earning her bachelor of music in voice performance
from Indiana University (Bloomington, Ind.), she
pursued a career change to speech language pathology
by earning a master of science in speech language
pathology from TeachersCollege, Columbia University,
and a doctorate from theUniversity of Pittsburgh.

Elizabeth Grillo is working on a novel way for student teachers to safeguard their voices. She's planning to incorporate a smart phone app into the telehealth equation, using technology to measure voices daily and to deliver speech-language pathology services at a distance. She has secured a National Institutes of Health grant in the amount of $410,260 to support her research.

The specific NIH institute overseeing the grant is the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. The project aligns with the NIDCD’s strategic plan to improve prevention of voice disorders and to develop telepractice and emerging technology platforms.

"This is the first [project] to design and test an online telepractice model using an app for the prevention of voice disorders," notes Grillo, WCU associate professor of communication sciences and disorders. "No prior work has tested a telepractice model, using a combination of synchronous [real-time] and asynchronous [store and access later] methods, delivered totally online with no in-person interactions."

Over the next three years, Grillo will help future teachers protect their voices through her Global Voice Prevention Model (GVPM). She will compare the effectiveness of an online telepractice GVPM versus an in-person GVPM for preventing voice problems in vocally healthy physical education and vocal music student teachers – the specialties that are at the highest risk for voice disorders – during their first student teaching experience. The students will capture voice-related measures daily on a smartphone app. The data will represent the effects of vocal loading from student teaching.

The grant, known as an Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) R15, is specifically designed to involve students directly in research. When the project begins in spring 2016, undergraduate students in the communication sciences and disorders program will assist Grillo with research and the pilot of the smart phone app. Graduate students will assist with research in the second and third years. Her subjects will be West Chester University student teachers.

Grillo's long-range goal is to create and test novel delivery methods for the prevention, assessment and treatment of voice disorders. Voice disorders appear to be the most common communication disorder across the lifespan and are more prevalent in professional voice users who depend on their voice for work, such as teachers."

Research reported in this article was supported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders of the National Institutes of Health under grant number R15DC014566. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.