Q&A with Dr. Paul Fogle, Professor Emeritus, Speech Language Pathologist

Dr. Paul T. Fogle has been a Speech-Language Pathologist since 1971. He earned his BA and master’s in Speech Pathology and Audiology at California State University and his Ph.D. at the University of Iowa. He has extensive experience with children and adults with neurological disorders, attention deficit disorders and auditory processing disorders, stuttering, voice disorders, and cleft palate. He also has experience working in acute, sub-acute, and convalescent hospitals.

He is a retired professor emeritus who has authored a number of textbooks, many of which current SLP students are likely to recognize: Foundations of Communication Sciences and DisordersCounseling Skills for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (co-written with Lydia Flasher, PhD,), and his newest textbook: Essentials of Communication Sciences and Disorders, 2nd Edition.

In addition to running a private practice, Dr. Fogle contributes new literature to the field and shares his findings and insights with the SLP community through seminars and workshops. Dr. Fogle’s career has taken him around the world with conferences, workshops, and Rotary International humanitarian missions, most recently to Romania. He has also done work as an expert witness in forensic speech-language pathology for medical-legal cases since 1987.

Q: Dr. Fogle, can you start by talking about how became interested in being a speech language pathologist?

Dr. Fogle: Yes, certainly. Like many speech language pathologists I did not go into college thinking about becoming a therapist. I was actually a biology major and I was going to follow in the footsteps of my own high school biology teacher, Mr. Rex Fischer. I was taking courses in biology – enjoying courses in zoology and animals – but I didn’t actually enjoy the people who were studying biology as much.

Then I was taking a course in education about how to become a teacher and the professor mentioned something about speech therapy, which I’d never heard about before. It sounded interesting so the next semester I took the introductory course, liked it a lot, did well, and changed my major at the end of my junior year.

I sometimes tell people that we never know what we may say to someone or may hear someone say that can actually change our lives. That teacher in the education class changed my life, which actually changed a lot of other peoples’ lives following that.

Q: It was something about the people in the speech language pathology field that attracted you to the profession and to change your major?

Dr. Fogle: Yes, very much. I’ve always found speech language pathologists as being very warm and caring; genuine people. As I used to tell my students: the women in speech pathology are the kinds of women who men can bring home to their mothers, and the kinds of men in speech pathology are the kinds of men that women can bring home to their fathers.

Interestingly enough, nationally in the US and pretty much around the world, 95 percent of all speech language pathologists are women, while five percent are men.

Q: Do you have any explanation for why that might be?

Dr. Fogle: My students used to ask me why are there not more men? I used to say that I think most men don’t have enough of two essential characteristics to be a good speech language pathologist. One characteristic is patience, and the other is sensitivity.

Sensitivity is very important in this kind of work because we have the nuances – the emotional and the social effects of the disorders we work with – that we need to be very aware of.

Q: Can you talk about how you made the transition between your education and the professional field?

Dr. Fogle: I earned by bachelor’s degree in 1970 after taking the introductory course in speech language pathology, anatomy and physiology, phonetics, child development, and speech language development; all the normal courses that you will be taking in your undergraduate work. I began my master’s degree in 1971 and that year completed all the courses for it: on the disorders, and evaluation and treatment of those.

My first two years after my master’s degree I worked for the Los Angeles Office of Education in a new program for children – actually adolescents – who had neurological disorders. Brain damage actually, from head traumas, gunshot wounds, beatings, sledding accidents, and others who had neurological disorders for which we didn’t know what the causes were but nonetheless they had speech, language, and cognitive disorders.

I did that for two years. But also during that time I was doing a lot of extra things to learn as much as I could.

I was training at UCLA with adult stutterers, and I also worked on Wednesday afternoons at Los Amigos hospital in Los Angeles doing human brain autopsies – that was very interesting work every Wednesday for three years actually.

Q: As a speech language pathologist it sounds like you can have a wide range of work settings. I’m sure you have some interesting anecdotes from those different places where you’ve worked. Can you talk about the range of work settings where a speech language pathologist could work?

Dr. Fogle: Yes, happy to. I should go back and mention that I began my doctoral work at the University of Iowa in 1973 and completed that in 1976. I specialized in neurological disorders in adults and children, and stuttering. I’ve always very much enjoyed working in those areas.

Our profession allows us to work in a lot of different areas.  There are some statistics on that:

  • About 53 percent of therapists – speech language pathologists and speech therapists – work in public schools.
  • About 16 percent work in hospitals of different kinds: acute care, sub-acute, and convalescent hospitals.
  • About 13 percent work in what are referred to as non-residential care facilities such as outpatient clinics and rehabilitation centers.
  • About 10 percent work in residential care facilities.
  • About five percent work in colleges and universities.

We do work in quite a variety of areas, and what is nice is that we can change. Many therapists start off working in the schools and decide they want to work in a hospital. Then they go back and get some more training, brush up on some things, do some continuing education courses, and go into hospitals.

Or vice-versa. Some therapists start working in hospitals and then they decide they’d like to start working in the schools, and they can do that as well. We do go back-and-forth a little bit.

Q: Compared with lots of professions you can really make it so there’s never a dull moment. You have a wide range of courses and education that you can choose from when you’re first starting out in school, and you also mentioned continuing education.

Dr. Fogle: Yes, we do learn a lot. One of the things that often surprises students first entering this education are how many areas we need to learn about.

As I mentioned: normal speech and language development, child development, anatomy and physiology, neurology, phonetics, language disorders, articulation disorders, voice disorders, cleft lip and palate, neurological disorders, we learn a lot about audiological disorders, hearing disorders; we have quite an extensive background in education.

One of the nice things about this profession is that we learn not only about speech pathology but a lot about education in general, which helps us later on as adults in terms of being parents. And we also learn a lot about the medical field which helps us be able to work through the medical system if we need to for our own personal needs.

Q: That’s very interesting. I don’t want to get too far away from something you alluded to. You mentioned some interesting stories. For example, you worked with one person who had a sledding accident?

Dr. Fogle: Yes, I remember him very well. His name was Michael.

Michael was in my classroom for children who had neurological disorders – this was right after my master’s degree in 1971.

Michael was in a sledding accident with his scout troop who were on a snow trip for a day. He was going down the hill on his sled and hit his head on a tree. He suffered some severe brain damage: he lost his ability to speak, his ability to understand, and he also had a lot of cognitive and learning problems.

Prior to the accident he did very well in school, he had no learning difficulties, he was an excellent communicator, played Little League baseball, and was a normal boy.

I worked with him during those years and he made some gains. Interestingly enough, his mother asked me to speak to his boy scout troop one evening. He was having some difficulties with them because the boys didn’t understand what had happened to him, and neither did the scout troop.

So one evening I went to the boyscout meeting and Michael was there dressed in his full boy scout uniform – he knew I was going to be talking about him – and I explained a lot about the problems he was having.

I answered a lot of questions and I could see the other scouts and the scout master were developing some extra empathy and sympathy – mainly empathy – for Michael, and they better understood his problems.

That was really important. One of the things we need to realize is that as therapists we need to step out of our normal work setting and sometimes go to the homes or other places where we can make a real difference in a person’s life.

Q: That sounds like a very important anecdote for highlighting the personal impact you can have on each person’s life who you work with.

Dr. Fogle: Thank you. I should mention that in all of our work, no matter what kind of disorder we’re working with – a child or an adult with an articulation disorder, a language disorder, a voice disorder, cleft lip/palate, stuttering, neurological disorders, hearing disorders – there’s always an emotional and social impact on the person and the family.

As therapists we need to address those and work with people in those areas.

Q: Yes, you need to treat the individual but there are also social aspects that you have to take into consideration?

Dr. Fogle: Definitely. And with that in mind I always like to encourage students to take as many courses in psychology as they can. And if at all possible, to take courses in marriage-family-child counseling.

I went back to school and got my doctoral degree and trained in marriage-family-child counseling, counseling psychology, educational counseling, and clinical psychology, in order to better understand the psychological and emotional needs of people and how to work with them better.

Q: That’s very interesting. So you would almost come from a standpoint that a speech language pathologist needs a solid grounding in psychology as well?

Dr. Fogle: Absolutely.

Q: On a slightly different subject, I was wondering if you have anything to say about prospective speech language pathologists who have accents or dialects. Do they have to worry about anything?

Dr. Fogle: That’s a good question for someone who has an accent or dialect because they were born or raised in some other country – if their home language is different from the basic educational language taught in school – wherever that may be in any place in the world.

According to the American Speech Language Hearing Association, an accent or dialect should not interfere as long as a student can learn the information and communicate that to clients, patients, and family members. When working with a child or adult who has some articulation problems, the accent or dialect must not interfere in producing the correct sound for the language that is being used or the language structure.

If a student comes in with a dialect or accent, that usually should not be a problem.

Q: I’m sure many prospective students will be glad to hear that. Speaking of accents, what about you and how your career as a speech language pathologist has brought an opportunity for you to participate in a lot of international work?

Dr. Fogle: It’s interesting that when I was a student I was a normal student. I was nervous, I was sometimes scared. Can I do well in the courses? When I’m doing clinical work, will my clients like me? When I’m working in hospitals will my patients like me?

I think that most speech pathologists, like most any other kind of student will wonder, can I do this? Can I make it?

I did, and I was also surprised to find out that there are so many more opportunities for work even at the international level than I had imagined. I’ve been invited to be a member of different organizations – one was Flying Doctors – and I was sent to Mexico as a speech pathologist with a team of medical people – surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and so on – to work at a clinic for children with cleft lips and palates.

In 2008 I was asked by Rotary International to be on their rotoplast mission – that is, plastic surgery – to Venezuela, and that was a two-week mission. It was very intense, working 12-to-14 hours a day, with one day off: Sunday.

In 2010 I was sent to Egypt. It was the same kind of work environment – always very challenging. In 2011 I was sent to India to work with cleft lips and palates. I’d see maybe 150 children and adults in a two-week period with cleft lips and palates.

Then in 2014 Rotary International sent me to Romania to work at a clinic for autistic children. In October of 2017 they sent me back again for two weeks to work again at the clinic, and on that occasion to head a team.

So there are a lot of interesting international opportunities, but I must say that it takes some experience and knowledge before you get to the point where you can work that independently, and you really need to be able to work independently and be able to teach others what you’re doing and what they can do better.

Q: It’s at least something that people can aspire to, and maybe one day do, once they put in the years of practice and work. Dr. Fogle, can you talk a bit about the career outlooks and job prospects for speech language pathologists?

Dr. Fogle: Yes, the good news is the current outlooks are excellent. I’m reading right now from a new textbook titled Essentials of Communication Sciences and Disorders, 2nd Edition:

Discussing the employment outlook for speech language pathologists, “US News and World Report (2016) ranks speech language pathologists number 19 in its ‘Best health care jobs’ category, and number 28 in its ‘100 best jobs in the US’ category. They define ‘good jobs’ as, ‘those that pay well, challenge us, are a good match for our talents and skills, are not too stressful, offer room for advancement, and provide a satisfying work-life balance.’”

I should mention that speech language pathologists typically have a very high job satisfaction rate. Those who get into it and stay in it love their field. When I go to conventions – national and international conventions – speech pathologists always have a lot to talk about and we love telling our own therapy stories.

What’s fun is that after a student has been in the field a little while, training in it and having their own clients at the university, they will have their own therapy stories, and they’re fun to share with one another.

Q: That’s good to hear. It sounds promising and enlightening. You have self-sustaining co-workers will keep you going and share their interesting experiences. Can you tie that in to life lessons that students and professionals will experience in this field?

Dr. Fogle: Certainly. I’ve often told students that I think speech pathology – and this is a personal opinion – is one of the best, if not the best, profession for training and preparation as an adult. Let me mention a few things that students learn while they are becoming speech language pathologists. Students will learn:

  • About the normal and abnormal development of infants and children
  • How to work with children on a one-on-one basis and in small groups of two or three
  • How to motivate children to work hard and improve their communication and academic skills
  • How to manage the sometimes delicate task of talking with parents about their concerns regarding their children
  • How to work with adults and elderly people with a variety of neurological problems
  • How to deal with sensitive issues that accompany impairments and loss of communication capabilities
  • Problems regarding hearing impairments at all ages and effects on both the person with the loss and the family
  • How to be a patient, active listener; a trained listener – perhaps the most important interpersonal skill that you can develop

Speech language pathologists are actually a different kind of person than any kind of other professional that I’ve ever known. We have a caring, sensitive way about us, we’re very likable in most all cases, and because of that we tend to be advanced.

If you’re working in one setting then you may actually have the opportunity to advance to administration if you find that’s an interest, because you’ll have excellent communication abilities.

As I mentioned, the most important characteristic we have, in terms of abilities, is the ability to listen.

Q: That’s certainly a life skill that’s important outside of the field as well as within. Do you have any last comments or advice that you would give to someone who is thinking about going into this field as a speech language pathologist?

Dr. Fogle: I would definitely encourage you to go into it. Look at yourself first and ask, do I really like people? Do I enjoy being with them? Do I like working with people who have problems or disabilities? Am I patient? Am I sensitive?

If you’re a man, I would really encourage you to consider this as a field for you. There are great opportunities for men just as well as for women. It’s an equal opportunity employment setting and profession.

You can work in so many different places in so many different ways. You can leave the field for a while and come back. It is the most enjoyable field I could possibly ever imagine getting into, and I’m so glad that I did.

I’ve been a therapist for over 45 years and I plan to continue.

Q: Dr. Paul Fogle, thanks very much for taking the time to sit down with us for an interivew.

Dr. Fogle: And thanks for interviewing me.