New Ph.D. Program at UAMS Addresses Growing Need for Speech Pathologists and Audiologists

By todd

LITTLE ROCK – The need for more speech pathologists and audiologists led to creation of a new doctoral program that will start classes in fall 2006 at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) and the University of Central Arkansas (UCA).


The communication sciences and disorders Ph.D. program, offered through a consortium of the three schools, will prepare graduates to be faculty members and researchers in the fields of audiology and speech pathology.


Prospective students can find out more about the program through the UAMS College of Health Related Professions online at or by phone at 501-569-3155.


As the population ages, the incidence of speech and hearing problems is expected to increase, with demand outpacing the ability of speech pathology and audiology programs to produce enough certified specialists. A key reason for the shortfall is a lack of faculty to teach these specialties.


“About a third of the audiology and speech pathology programs in the nation are unable to fill vacant faculty positions, at least not in the first search, due to a lack of qualified applicants,” said Thomas Guyette, Ph.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology at UAMS and UALR. “The median age for faculty members is 55, so half will reach retirement age in the next few years just as the demand for audiologists and speech pathologists begins to increase dramatically.”


The universities recently received accreditation approval from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools as well as a nearly $700,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to provide student tuition and stipends.


Six students who already hold master’s degrees or higher will be accepted annually into the three-year program.


Guyette said the grant will allow financial assistance to most students accepted into the program in the first few years.


“This grant gives us a solid foundation to get the doctoral program started,” Guyette said.


The consortium structure provides the opportunity for interdisciplinary research in both medically oriented sites and in conventional college campus locations. Doctoral students will have opportunities to collaborate on research with specialists working with patients of all ages and with disciplines including otolaryngology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, nursing, psychology and special education.  


Students will have access to research facilities to study fluency, swallowing, auditory perception, language development, electrophysiology and other areas.   


UAMS will host the program through its College of Health Related Professions and Graduate School. Classes will be held on the UAMS, UALR and UCA campuses. The Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology currently offers an undergraduate program, a master of science in communicative disorders program and a doctor of audiology program.


UALR and UAMS offer the only certified audiology program in Arkansas. The institutions joined forces in 1974 to create the program, combining the resources of a traditional university with a health sciences campus.


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, five centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,320 students and 690 medical residents. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with almost 9,000 employees, including nearly 1,000 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the VA Medical Center. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $4.3 billion a year.