Stony Brook University cut the ribbon last week on a new permanent home at the Stony Brook Southampton campus for the school’s speech language pathology masters program.
The new facility, Stony Brook educators said, will help boost the program’s connections to the burgeoning health sciences initiatives at the Southampton campus and Stony Brook Southampton Hospital — which will someday relocate to the college property itself.
Growing populations of Spanish-speaking residents, greater understanding of the challenges of conditions like autism, multiple-sclerosis and the cognitive and communication difficulties left in the wake of severe COVID-19 infections make the work of speech-language pathologists increasingly important but in short supply, educators said.
“Speech-language pathologists play a vital role in helping people overcome communication challenges related to stutters, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, the autism spectrum and now the lasting effects of COVID-19.
Just 8 percent of trained speech-language therapists are bilingual, Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis said, while State Senator Anthony Palumbo noted at the ceremony on Friday, September 17, at the Southampton campus, that the Spanish speaking population on the East End has increased by some 48 percent in the last decade.
“Whether it is on the floor of the ICU helping patients who are being weened off ventilators to regain their ability to communicate and swallow, to helping children improve their communication skills through reading and writing, the [speech-language pathologist] is ready and equipped to help,” said Renee Fabus, the chairwoman of the Stony Brook speech-language pathology program. “Healthcare faces many challenges and speech-language services are need more than ever.”
State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. — who attended the former Southampton College on the same campus, when the new speech-language pathology program’s home was the college’s library — applauded the opening of the new center as the latest step in the gradual transformation of the Southampton campus into a base for graduate programs, particularly in health sciences.
With the nationally respected marine science program, the fine arts programs and the coming relocation of Stony Brook Southampton Hospital to the college campus, Mr. Thiele said that the campus has once again become an important economic resource for the South Fork and East End communities.
“When [Southampton Hospital CEO] Bob Chaloner and I first met with Renee Fabus … to discuss the speech-language pathology program, it was a vision that was congruent with a mental desire for the university campus and the hospital to grow closer,” said Dr. Fredric Weinbaum, the chief medical officer at the hospital. “We collectively understood that there would be an enormous benefit for the university and for the hospital to become an integral part of the university’s teaching mission.”