Seven minutes in stroke - Erin Godecke

1. What inspired you towards neuroscience?
In 1992, I was a 2nd year undergraduate student in Speech Pathology and a friend gave me the book “The man who mistook his wife for a hat” by the famous neurologist Oliver Sacks. The stories in the book and the way the human brain functions, fascinated me. In particular, the way the language and cognition could allow such an insight into how the human brain works. I’m still intrigued by language and the capacity of the brain to recover after stroke.

2. Why stroke?
Two reasons! The first: Is working with the patients I see who inspire me in their strength during recovery and being able to facilitate improved outcomes for people with communication difficulties. The second is the ability to work within a team of likeminded professionals. There is something unique about people who work in stroke and the way in which they pull together for the people they are treating. I’ve worked in many different healthcare areas and stroke care is by far the most inspiring and rewarding group to be part of.

3. What have been the highs so far?
Watching people with aphasia achieve a goal they didn’t think was possible. I get a real buzz from guiding people with aphasia to independent communication.
A second high is being awarded national funding to determine the efficacy of a therapy regimen (VERSE) that has taken our team 15 years to build.

4. What have been the lows?
The ongoing battle to access stroke research funding and not having stroke in Australia recognized as a priority area of health funding at Commonwealth and state levels. This means that I watch people with aphasia and other communication disorders receive less than optimal therapy.

5. How do you balance work life with the needs of home life?
Wow! This is a tough question! Sometimes I don’t do this as well as I’d like to. I take days off, I have a ‘therapy daschshund!’, I prioritise exercise (5 sessions/week) and I have a team of special people at home who are very supportive and understanding of the work I do. They support me to help make the stroke recovery road easier for people with communication disorders.

6. Who are your most important mentors and how did you find them?
I have two mentors – both strong females and well established researchers who I have sought out for different reasons and all who offer me something unique.

I found Prof Julie Bernhardt at regular stroke meetings and I made sure I got to know her. She inspires me with her drive, passion and approach to life as a researcher and person. She continues to guide me through complex situations in stroke research and regularly links me in with people I don’t know I need to be in touch with!

I spoke with my second mentor, Professor Beth Armstrong when she visited my work place in 2008. I told her I wanted to come and work with her and asked how I could make it happen. We worked towards getting a post doc position at the university she was working at and six years later we are doing great stroke research together. Beth helps me to develop my approach to aphasia and recovery. She challenges me to think more broadly and to apply this thinking in our research and clinical practice.

7. What are your most important collaborations and how have you built them?
My collaborative network is large and varied. I tend to seek out likeminded people and develop long term working collaborations built on mutual interest. I believe that to strengthen speech pathology services in stroke, as a profession we need to broaden our collaborations and work less in discipline specific areas and more in interdisciplinary teams.

Above all, my most important collaboration is working with clinical speech pathologists to help to bring together their research and clinical worlds. I do this through ongoing education sessions, publishing research and staying grounded by making sure I maintain a clinically active position while doing research.

I use international collaborations e.g Collaboration of Aphasia Trialists  (Prof Marian Brady, Dr Myzoon Ali and many many others) to make sure Australian aphasia and stroke services are on the world research map.

Seven minutes in stroke - Erin Godecke Reviewed by Carmen Lahiff-Jenkins on Tuesday, June 21, 2016 Rating: 5

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