My First Love….

Love is action and a life time commitment. My Godmother made sure I understood that passion,  patience, willingness to go the extra mile, and perseverance were necessary to demonstrate love.  Being a part of my life since birth, she was confident that when she made her introduction I would  fall in love.

bucsIn the 10th grade, the introduction was made. Immediately, I did fall in love. I fell in love with the opportunity of helping make life better for others, regardless of their age, and being able to make a difference in a variety of places. You see my Godmother introduced me to the speech-language pathology profession. It was one that I had never heard of before but it seemed just right for me. I loved to speak and jumped at the opportunity whenever it presented itself! The idea of helping those who could not speak really resonated with me.

Most of us take our ability to communicate for granted, and do not realize how extremely difficult it is to live a productive life when communication is impaired.  Other than the absolute essentials of air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, and shelter from the elements. nothing is more vital to humans than the ability to communicate.  In my quest to learn as much as I could about this profession, I wrote off to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. The packet of information I received helped me to understand all the opportunities that awaited me as I worked to help others. drscreenOff to Hampton Institute (University) I went to learn all that I needed to get started. There I met my first Mentor, Dr. Robert M. Screen. He was all about excellence and his core value became mine. He had earned his doctorate at Michigan State University and supported me in receiving a scholarship there to earn my master’s degree. The more I learned about this profession the more I fell in love.

Once armed with my degree and credentials, I began to pursue my love with others. patchildMy love intensified as I saw the smile of a child who could now be understood by a parent, teacher, or friend.


The tears of a person who was now able to return to work after recovering from a stroke.  A kiss between a husband and wife because love could verbally be expressed again in that simple phrase, “I love you.”

My love grew as I taught students about my love and watched them light up when they learned a new concept, made a new discovery from their research, and celebrate with family and friends when they obtained their doctoral degree.


My love reached new heights when I was able to meet with other professionals around the country and facilitate the development of policies, best practices, and new systems.


You see I learned from my first love that what brought me joy was not just evaluating, providing interventions, teaching, conducting research; but rather it was the results or outcomes of those activities. My love for speech-language pathology led me to my true love, a love for outcomes.

As I pursue my love for outcomes, I can never forget my first love!

If you know a student who you think might benefit from my first love, check out my very first book, which is in its third edition, Opportunities in Speech-Language Pathology Careers (McGraw Hill).  May is “Better Hearing & Speech Month.”communication


I Didn’t Want to Be Charming!

I could hardly believe that I was officially on the faculty of a University in the nation’s capital. My first assignment included teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses, launching a family program within the speech and hearing clinic,  directing and conducting graduate research. My mentor reviewed my curriculum, provided me with positive feedback, and gave me confidence  that I was off to a good start. Next up was my first Department meeting, an opportunity to begin connecting with my new colleagues. I would be introduced officially to the faculty and staff.

The Chairman called the Department meeting to order and stated that the first item of business was to introduce the new faculty. Sitting with anticipation of my introduction, when I heard him say “I’m delighted to introduce the charming Dr. Patricia Larkins,” I was disappointed. I couldn’t believe that after all of my hard work and extensive research, he chose to describe me to my colleagues as “charming.” What about “capable?” The other new faculty member, who was male, had been  introduced as a “distinguished scholar.”   My research track record was comparable to his and in some ways I had garnered more national recognition from my peers because of my dissertation findings. I asked myself,  “What is it about me that makes charming my descriptor?howardu

“Was it the way I was wearing my hair? How I was dressed? My demeanor?”  I looked in the mirror and thought maybe my hair style was too curly. Looking at my wardrobe, I thought maybe I needed to get darker colors- wear more black and navy blue. I decided that the next time  I interacted with the Chairman and during meetings, I would make sure my tone was modulated and my facial expression was more serious. I underwent an extreme total makeover.

Then one day, a colleague asked me “Why do you always wear such dark and dreary colors?”

I explained to her my perceptions about the introductory Departmental meeting and that I wanted the students and my peers to respect me as their colleague for my academic and research contributions. While agreeing that I should be attentive to my appearance, she suggested that I take another look at myself and see if maybe I had taken it to the extreme.  Then she asked me if I had talked with the Chairman about how I perceived his introduction before I launched into my makeover. Well, I hadn’t. She then urged me to talk with him about my assumptions. Perhaps, he wasn’t aware of the impact of his word choices.meeting I decided that meeting with the Chairman would be a good thing.  To my surprise, during our meeting, I found out that he was unaware of how his introductions differentiated the new male faculty member and me. In fact, the Chairman indicated that he intentionally chose ‘charming’ because he was certain that my personality and attitude was going to bring about a more positive climate in the Department. He was surprised that I thought he did not value my capability. As our meeting ended, the Chairman apologized and thanked me for sharing. He assured me that my academic acumen and research skills were valued by him and my colleagues.  Further, our conversation had alerted him to be more mindful in the future of how his words and actions might be perceived differently from his intentions, given the diversity of the audience. 

I walked out of the Chairman’s office with two important discoveries.verifyassumptions Before acting on an assumption, verify to determine if the assumption is accurate. It could save time, money, and unwarranted actions. Clarifying assumptions also helps others to recognize the impact of their words and actions. Clarifying assumptions is key to effective communication. So it turned out that my extreme total makeover wasn’t necessary. I was capable and charming!


Fact Check

In my doctoral program, I learned a valuable lesson that impacts how I process information shared with me. Early in the program, one of my professor’s emphasized the importance of checking the facts in order to do quality research. He required that we go to the original source.  Surely, if an article was published in a peer reviewed journal, it was accurate. But my professor insisted that regardless of the publication, it was necessary to personally check the original source because subsequent authors’ interpretation may not be consistent with the original work. This lesson has proven to be beneficial over the years and even more necessary in today’s reality. If you want the facts, then it is important that information shared is complete and accurate.

Here are some of the reasons “why” information unchecked may be inaccurate and/or incomplete.why

  • Multiple people repeating information without checking and verifying the information can lead to inaccuracies. Do you remember the childhood game, ‘gossip?’ The message was inevitably distorted by the time the last person shared what had been communicated. What about errors that also occur when written information is touched by multiple people? The likelihood of errors increases when people re-enter information and do not take the time to verify it.
  • Misinterpretation is sometimes based upon our personal filters and can be costly in both time and resources. Here’s a personal example. As my first semester in graduate school was coming to a close and in preparation for my trip home for the holidays, I asked my mother what kind of weather I could expect. She said the weather man had just broadcast that it was going to be “cold.”  I was disappointed because after barely surviving my first winter in Michigan, I was hoping for Florida warmth. When I arrived, the weather wasn’t what I had expected. It was in the 60’s and I had brought all my ‘winter clothes.’  In Florida, 60 is cold to Floridians. But that doesn’t equate to 100% wool clothing, which is what I was wearing in Michigan. Now, with the wrong clothes in my bags, we had to go shopping. This meant spending time and dollars purchasing clothes that I would not be wearing once I got back to Michigan.
  • Incomplete information can lead to different conclusions. Just this morning, I received my Diversity Inc. magazine and was surprised when I read the headline- “U.S. Income Surges, but Women, Minorities Remain Behind.” Last night on the news, the headline was “U.S. Income Surges.” So why the different headlines? Upon reading the article and examining the data, it was apparent that median incomes had increased across all racial groups; however, when you examined the specific income amounts, regardless of the increase, there were still disparities with the greatest being among Black households. Depending upon the headline, different conclusions are drawn.

To fact check, try these 4 tips.spidercheck

  • Always go to the original source
  • Ask questions to make sure you and the person sharing the information are using the same reference. (If I had just asked my mother- “what will the temperature be?”)
  • Don’t just accept the facts without making comparisons
  • Identify the filters that are being used to present the information

CAUTION:   Due to the internet and social media platforms, we are able to easily access and share information. Don’t be a contributor of increasing the number of people who are misinformed. Make sure that you don’t share information without fact-checking.