Seven minutes in stroke - Linda Worrall

1. What inspired you towards neuroscience?
I moved addresses to Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, Australia from rural North Queensland in 1977 to decide what university degree to apply for.  I observed a speech pathologist with a person with severe aphasia and have been wanting to help ever since.

2. Why stroke?
I was on a working holiday in the UK when I took up the Research Speech Therapist position at the newly opened Stroke Research Unit in Nottingham. The innovation of the multidisciplinary team led by Dr Nadina Lincoln on the stroke ward was exciting and meaningful. I completed my PhD there from 1984-1987 at an exciting time when the UK stroke and aphasia scene was rich with innovation, leading the world in the organization of stroke services and stroke rehabilitation. 

3. What have been the highs so far?
I loved leading the NHMRC funded Centre for Clinical Research Excellence in Aphasia Rehabilitation from 2009-2014. We have a very strong network of aphasia researchers now in Australia and have the online Australian Aphasia Rehabilitation Pathway. I was also immensely impressed when the Duchess of Bedford came to Brisbane during one of our massive tropical storms to award me the Tavistock Prize for my contribution to aphasia. It was the first time she had awarded it to someone outside of the UK. 

4. What have been the lows?
Stroke patients with aphasia have the worst outcomes, yet they remain marginalised in stroke research, practice and policy. It’s not rocket science to include them.  I don’t like to see the Australian Aphasia Association for people with aphasia and their families struggle for funding and support when larger stroke organizations forget they are there.  I hate that some stroke clinicians still question the value of speech pathology services for people with aphasia and their families despite two positive Cochrane Reviews.  I hate to hear stories of people with aphasia who have been treated very badly in the health system. All health professionals need to step up to the challenge of understanding how language is processed in the brain, how aphasia is not a cognitive, intellectual or memory problem to be afraid of, and how to communicate with someone with aphasia.  

5. How do you balance work life with the needs of home life?
I am finally getting the hang of it after 30 years of academia. Progressing my career, having three young girls, and an academic husband was hard work in the early years. I deliberately expanded my home life through more exercise, more family time, more travel and supporting my home rugby league team, the Broncos.  I don’t work on weekends or nights, but do work hard and strategically during work hours with a great team of aphasia pre-doc and post doc researchers. 

6. Who are your most important mentors and how did you find them?
At the University of Queensland, we had a formal mentoring scheme for women and I was allocated Professor Cindy Gallois, who I have worked with for many years.  I approached Professor Audrey Holland (University of Arizona) during some travel in the USA in 1985 and she focused my thinking on what matters in aphasia research and rehabilitation.  I now have a rich network of aphasia research colleagues from around the world and we mentor each other, usually during a writing retreat alongside an international aphasia conference. We have also turned our attention to mentoring others. 

7. What are your most important collaborations and how have you built them?
I will graduate my 26th PhD student soon and these have been very important collaborators. They form the next generation of aphasia researchers. The CCRE in Aphasia Rehabilitation brought me my “rope team”, Associate Professor Miranda Rose (Latrobe University) and Professor Leanne Togher (University of Sydney), and we are tied together to support each other through the ups and downs of academic life.  During the research capacity building years in speech pathology at The University of Queensland, I was also fortunate to have my old university friend, Professor Louise Hickson in the same department as a collaborator from audiology and this cross fertilization across the disciplines sparked many successful grants and PhD projects. 

Professor Linda Worrall is the Director, of the NHMRC CCRE in Aphasia Rehabilitation and Co-director of the Communication Disability Centre, as well as the Postgraduate Coordinator for the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, The University of Queensland

Seven minutes in stroke - Linda Worrall Reviewed by Carmen Lahiff-Jenkins on Monday, July 03, 2017 Rating: 5

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