ETSU speech student works to help others and encourage diversity in field

Kevanté Drew (Contributed photo)

East Tennessee State University graduate student Kevanté Drew aims to advocate for more diversity in the speech-language pathology profession.

Drew, a second-year student in ETSU’s Speech-Language Pathology Program, was recently selected to be the student state officer for the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association, which has more than 13,000 members.

Drew received national exposure earlier this fall as a panelist for the association, where he discussed racism and biases within communication sciences programs.

The Press recently asked him to tell us more about himself and his goals, starting with some fast facts.

What got you interested in your field?

During a student teaching experience in high school, I was able to shadow a speech pathologist in an elementary school setting. I did more research about what the scope of practice is for a speech-language pathologist is; this included reaching out to peers in the field, professionals from various settings, etc. I fell in love with this profession at that point.

What have you been up to?

Recently, I have been trying to become more of an advocate within the field. The most recent efforts would include taking on some leadership roles and using my voice to represent BIPOC students/professionals. The National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association asked me to help with a series that they began in spring 2020. This initiative, titled “Raw Conversations,” was created to foster discussions related to addressing racism and oppression within communication sciences and disorders education.

Being a part of these important conversations is one of the most challenging yet rewarding ways that I feel I can contribute to this field. Other than being an advocate, I am working through my second, and final year of my master’s program in Speech-Language Pathology.

What do you find most rewarding about speech pathology?

The most rewarding thing about working with patients comes when they begin to notice improvements in their communication abilities. When they notice a difference and start to believe in their rehabilitated abilities, their quality of life is improved; that is the reason we do what we do.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your field?

Many of the intervention approaches used in our field are hindered by wearing masks. SLPs now have a more difficult time modeling speech and swallowing techniques for our patients to use. Additionally, we have run into the issue of many of our patients being immunocompromised and cannot physically come to therapy, many of our patients do not have access to tele-therapy and providing swallowing intervention via tele-therapy can be deemed unethical. Even with the slew of problems, many patients are understanding and are wondering about compromising with our regulations.

What are your plans after you receive your degree?

After graduation, I plan to move to the metro-Atlanta area to work as a medical speech-language pathologist.