Our continued conversations series highlights the experts behind our content. Meet the presenters, contributors, and guest editors who make a difference in their fields and inspire our learners to do the same.
Ann W. Kummer, PhD, CCC-SLP, recently retired from her role as senior director of the Division of Speech-Language Pathology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Kummer continues to see patients part-time at Cincinnati Children’s and also serves as a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics and Professor of Otolaryngology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. She teaches cleft palate/craniofacial courses at five universities and travels frequently to present lectures and seminars.
An expert in the areas of cleft palate, craniofacial anomalies, velopharyngeal dysfunction, and business practices in speech-language pathology, she has given hundreds of national and international lectures and has written numerous professional articles and 24 book chapters. She is the author of Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Conditions: A Comprehensive Guide to Clinical Management, now in its 4th edition.
Kummer is a longtime contributor and presenter for continued's SpeechPathology.com and serves on its advisory board. In partnership with Cincinnati Children’s, Kummer and her staff provided 45 courses for SpeechPathology.com in one year. She is also the editor of a monthly feature for SpeechPathology.com called 20Q with Ann Kummer, where well-respected professionals and authors answer 20 questions about their area of expertise.
Why did you initially pursue the field of speech-language pathology?
My dad was an otolaryngologist, and I worked in his office on Saturdays and in summers throughout high school and college. I really loved what he did because he was able to make a difference in the lives of others, and his patients were so appreciative. I always loved science and was interested in healthcare. I also wanted to work with children. My dad suggested speech pathology, and it was a great suggestion because I loved it right away.
Where has your career journey taken you?
My first job as a speech-language pathologist was working in the public schools in North Carolina. After three years in practice, I got my dream job at Cincinnati Children’s. Over the years, I served as the coordinator, then director, and eventually senior director of their Division of Speech-Language Pathology.
"I am passionate about what I do because I really feel that I make a difference in the lives of my patients and their families. Sometimes I can’t believe I get paid for this because the gratification is so great."
How did you develop your expertise in cleft palate and craniofacial anomalies?
A few years after I came to Cincinnati Children’s, I was asked to join the craniofacial team. Unfortunately, I knew virtually nothing about this population because I had only one lecture in graduate school on cleft palate. Therefore, I read a lot, asked a lot of questions, and observed a lot, and it quickly became my clinical passion. I have been lucky to serve almost 40 years on the craniofacial team and about 30 years in our Velopharyngeal Insufficiency / Incompetence Clinic.
How did Cincinnati Children's grow to become the largest pediatric speech-language pathology program in the nation?
When I became the leader of our program, I realized that we had a great deal of potential to grow and specialize. First, we had to grow our referral base. We did that by doing a lot of lectures for the medical students, residents, professional divisions within the medical center and University of Cincinnati, and professional organizations within the city. Once these professionals knew what we could do, the referrals started to increase substantially. Then, we had to make a strong argument to the administration that hiring more SLPs would be a good investment. We did that by becoming profitable through efficiencies and working smarter rather than harder. As our staff grew, we were able to become more specialized. As such, staff could see patients with disorders in their interest areas only, which increased the quality of our services and the satisfaction of the staff. Finally, we learned to hire people who were not just good clinicians but also good people, resulting in a highly collaborative and cohesive team. Currently, our division has a little more than 97,500 visits per year, with children coming from all over the country for several of our specialty programs.
How did you get your start in teaching, and why is teaching important to you?
Early in my career, one of my colleagues encouraged me to do a lecture for the Ohio State Speech-Language Hearing Association. I was terrified, but I did it, and I discovered that I really love teaching. I started doing more and more lectures and seminars and then started teaching at the University of Cincinnati. I now teach at five universities and have also written a textbook on cleft palate and craniofacial abnormalities.
What makes you so passionate about your field?
I am passionate about what I do because I really feel that I make a difference in the lives of my patients and their families. Sometimes I can’t believe I get paid for this because the gratification is so great. Unfortunately, most speech-language pathologists are not trained in my specialization area. As a result, many children with resonance disorders or speech disorders due to abnormal structure do not get the treatment that they need. Some of them are in speech therapy inappropriately for years, when what they really need is physical correction through surgery. Therefore, I am passionate about educating speech-language pathologists about the evaluation and appropriate treatment of children with oropharyngeal anomalies.
"Online education is a really powerful way to increase access to continuing education for so many people."
You’ve been a presenter, contributor, and board member for SpeechPathology.com for over a decade. Why do you enjoy being a part of continued's family of online continuing education websites?
SpeechPathology.com is highly respected for its quality educational offerings. It also has a broad reach. Therefore, by working with SpeechPathology.com, I can reach a very large number of speech-language pathologists all over the country and help them to help those that they serve. If I can impact even one child by a lecture I’ve given, it is worth my time and effort. Also, it’s so easy to work with SpeechPathology.com. The people there are so supportive and helpful. Online education is a really powerful way to increase access to continuing education for so many people. It is convenient, and you can listen to the lecture over and over as needed.