Abriel R. McCann of Swoyersville, a speech-language pathology graduate student at Misericordia University, was awarded the 2017 Von Drach Memorial Scholarship by the Pennsylvania Speech-Language-Hearing Association (PSHA) at the 58th annual Convention in Harrisburg.
Misericordia University SLP students have received nine out of the last 10 Von Drach scholarships awards. The prestigious award is presented annually to an outstanding student from one of the state's 14 SLP schools in honor of Dr. Robert Von Drach. Recipients are students who exhibit strong leadership abilities, outstanding academic performance, exceptional clinical skills, and scholarship within the profession.
McCann's journey into the specialty field of communicative sciences and disorders began during her senior year in high school. She saw the emotional toll bullying and teasing had on her young cousin because he stuttered.
Instead of being angry, though, her family member wanted to educate his peers. The pair embarked on numerous Google searches. They targeted "stuttering,'' "bullying and elementary school kids,'' "stuttering education,'' and "stuttering treatment,'' according to McCann.
Armed with a treasure-trove of information, McCann's cousin began educating his former classmates. "They changed their views about stuttering,'' she recalled. "This experience left an indelible impression in my mind and I decided to pursue a degree in speech-language pathology and conduct research on fluency disorders.''
At Misericordia, the daughter of John and Lynne McCann has been a member of the department's National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association and Pennsylvania Speech-Language-Hearing Association since 2012. She has maintained a 3.83 grade point average while engaging in scientific research, clinical work and community service on top of her academics course load.
In the community, she has served as an academic tutor for school-aged children at Lehman-Jackson Elementary School, mentored undergraduate students and volunteered at St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen, Ruth's Place Women's Shelter, and Luzerne County Head Start program.
That drive to serve those in need also extends into the unknown as well. As a student assistant, McCann sought to gain a better understanding of fluency disorders by conducting novel research studies with Glen M. Tellis, Ph.D., C.C.C.-S.L.P., professor and chair, and Kathleen Scaler Scott, Ph.D., C.C.C., S.L.P., associate professor, both of the Department of Speech-Language Pathology at Misericordia University
With Dr. Tellis, McCann conducted groundbreaking research with functional near-infrared spectroscopy to measure hemoglobin-concentration patterns in the brains of people who stutter, and additional studies in fluency disorders. "In terms of research, Abriel's performance has been stellar,'' said Dr. Tellis. "I doubt many master's or doctoral students in the country can match her performance.''
Under the direction of Dr. Scaler Scott, McCann began to develop her master's thesis about reading fluency testing in children with coexisting communication disorders after working with children who had fluency disorders, such as stuttering and cluttering, and reading fluency disorders. At PSHA's annual convention, she will present her findings in the paper, "Oral Reading Fluency in Children with Communication Disorders: More Sides to the Story.''
"Abbey's passion for her field is the strongest I have seen in my teaching career,'' said Dr. Scaler Scott. "The fact that Abbey constantly volunteers for extra clinical work, research projects, and simply to help in the department whenever and wherever she is needed, speaks volumes to her enthusiasm. It is one thing to volunteer, but it is quite another to excel in all areas.
Since 2014, McCann has presented six scholarly papers at international conferences, made eight presentations at national conventions, and nine at state conventions.
"By the time I graduate, I will have presented 28 papers at local, state, national and international venues,'' she said. "It is extremely fulfilling to share results with other professionals in our discipline, especially my experience presenting at the 8th World Congress on Fluency Disorders in Lisbon, Portugal.''
In May, McCann will receive her master's degree in speech-language pathology at Misericordia University's 91st annual commencement ceremony after completing her last fieldwork placement at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
"This career path has allowed me to combine my personal core values with my passion for learning and making advancements in the field of speech-language pathology,'' McCann said. "I could not have been blessed with more diverse, valuable, and enriching opportunities during my time at Misericordia. Following graduation, I am excited to work toward constantly furthering my education and contribution to the field of speech-language pathology.''For more information about the speech-language pathology program at Misericordia University, please call (570) 674-6400 or log on to www.misericordia.edu/slp