Kansas Masonic Foundation donates to FHSU's speech-language pathology program

The Kansas Masonic Foundation's Board of Trustees has voted to award a $97,590 grant to Fort Hays State University's Department of Communication Disorders.

The award, which took effect on July 1, continues a partnership that began in 1998 with the KMF"s five-year grant to the department to support speech rehabilitation services to stroke survivors and other neurologically impaired adults.

The first annual award was for $50,000. It funded the salary for a new clinical instructor position and a fellowship for a graduate student in the speech-language pathology program. The university committed a similar amount of in-kind support, such as facilities and programming, to the expansion of its adult rehabilitation program and the partnership was born.

Mark Nelson, executive director of KMF, said, "When I say how pleased we are with this partnership, I'm not speaking solely for the foundation, but the Masons of Kansas in general for the opportunity to be involved in a program that can give back so much taken from those who have suffered the loss of verbal communication. We are also pleased to be a part of the educational experience of those students who have chosen speech pathology as their life career. What a rewarding skill to possess."

In 2003-2004 the grant will fund not only the Masonic Clinical Instructor's salary, but also four graduate fellowships of $6,000 each and a new outreach program to bring health and educational services to rural Kansans. The total amount of financial support that the KMF has committed to clinical services and education at FHSU since 1998 is $416,542.

According to department chair Dr. Marcia Bannister, the KMF grant has helped the SLP program accomplish its dual mission of providing quality education to students and quality services to clients and families in its teaching clinic, the Geneva Herndon Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic.

Dr. Chuck Wilhelm, professor of communication disorders and long-time Mason, said, "Because of the funding we have received from the KMF, the number of adults who are served each year at the Herndon Clinic has risen by 240 percent."

He added that in recent years, supervisors of FHSU graduate students doing internships (called externships in the speech-language pathology field) in medical facilities have noted a marked improvement in students' depth of knowledge of adult services.

Stroke survivor Bob Legleiter has been receiving therapy at the Herndon Clinic for more than two years. He said, "I don't know what I'd do without this place."

The dramatic rise in services to adults has been accomplished without any decrease in services to infants and children served by the clinic. This is mainly because of the Masonic Clinical Instructor, whose focus is on helping adults with speech disorders caused by stroke, head trauma, and related neurological disorders.

Bannister added, "Having the Masonic Instructor in the department means that our graduate students are getting greater clinical practice with the kinds of communication disabilities associated with older people. This is a good thing for western Kansas."

Ellis County, where FHSU is located, is in the "oldest" region of Kansas. Of the state's 21 counties with the highest concentrations of people age 65 or older, 15 are located in north central and northwest Kansas.

Both the rural nature and the older population of northwest Kansas make FHSU a logical site to prepare students to work with older adults. And because a higher percentage of FHSU students come from rural areas than do students at other Regents' universities, relatively more of them are willing to work in rural areas.

The new outreach program supported by the KMF will also help ensure that older Kansas residents living in rural areas receive relevant information about speech and hearing. The goal is to help them access needed services without having to travel great distances. Furthermore, screening, prevention, and other educational activities provided through the outreach program will help FHSU students meet the standards for national certification as speech-language pathologists.

Outreach activities will take place at Masonic lodges in Hoxie, Dodge City, Arkansas City, Pittsburg, Hiawatha and Concordia.

Graduate Masonic Fellowships will increase from $5,000 to $6,000 per year under the new grant. The intensive, two-year graduate SLP program leaves students little time for outside employment as they pursue their degrees.

Kara McAtee, Hays graduate student and Masonic Fellow said, "The funds provided by the KMF have enabled me to remain on campus and focus on my clinical and educational experiences."

The FHSU master of science program in speech-language pathology is nationally accredited and produces an average of 14 speech language pathologists annually. After earning the MS degree, graduates are eligible for the National Certificate of Clinical Competence and Kansas licensure.

The Kansas Masonic Foundation was established in 1966 for the purpose of expanding Masonic philanthropy in the fields of charitable, educational and scientific programs. The KMF is totally funded by voluntary gifts and endowments from Kansas Masons, their families and friends.

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