Meet Ann W. Kummer, PhD, CCC-SLP, FASHA
When Dr. Kummer replied to my email requesting her feature on this blog, I literally shrieked with excitement. It truly felt like a celebrity was acknowledging my existence! I first met Dr. Kummer virtually, as she presented a Skype lecture to my graduate class at Purdue University. She spoke about the importance of caregiver education in providing evidence-based, cost-effective care to pediatric clients. I was so impressed by how articulate, confident, and approachable she was. I later had the privilege to attend Dr. Kummer’s retirement party at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in the summer of 2017. I was a graduate clinician within the program that summer (which was, by far, the most amazing clinical rotation I had ever experienced). During the celebration, she spoke about her professional journey, grit, and evident passion for this career. As her CV scrolled across the projected screen like the rolling intro to Star Wars, I sat in awe. This woman is amazing! The best part about Dr. Kummer is that, despite her elite status as a leader, researcher, and outstanding speech-language pathologist, she still carries herself lightly, has a great sense of humor, and takes the time to respond to simple requests like mine.
Her path: In 2017, Dr. Kummer retired as the senior director of the division of speech-language pathology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Under her leadership, the pediatric program at Cincinnati Children’s became the largest, most respected pediatric program in the nation. Dr. Kummer is also a professor of clinical pediatrics and otolaryngology at the University of Cincinnati, College of Medicine. She lectures around the country and globe in the areas of cleft palate, craniofacial anomalies, resonance disorders, and velopharyngeal dysfunction. She is the co-developor of the Simplified Nasometric Assessment Procedures (SNAP) test and holds a patent on the nasoscope (marketed as the Oral & Nasal Listener, Super Duper, Inc.) In 2017, Dr. Kummer received Honors of the Association, the highest award given by ASHA.
“Just being the boss does not work well in influencing others. Instead, you need to have expertise or “credibility” for others to have confidence in your ability to lead them AND you need to have the emotional intelligence and likeability for others to want to follow your lead.” – Ann W. Kummer
- What advice would you give to a new graduate who is about to start their clinical fellowship (CF)? I would advise the CF to really take advantage of their fellowship opportunity to learn from a working and experienced professional. Therefore, ask a lot of questions. Ask for observation opportunities. Go beyond what you have to do for each client by reading further regarding the person’s condition, evaluation, and treatment. Finally, seek constant feedback and accept feedback with eagerness and no defensiveness.
- What is one belief, habit or routine that has significantly impacted your life? I took a leadership class as an elective in my PhD program. The class totally changed the way that I view leadership, communication, and interpersonal relationships. What I learned was that there are five sources of power to influence others to follow your lead: Authority power, Reward Power, Punishment Power, Expert Power and Personal Power. Many bosses and supervisors believe that it is the first three sources of power that are most effective, when actually, the last two, Expert Power and Personal Power, that are the ones that really give you the ability to influence others. Basically what that means is that just being the boss does not work well in influencing others. Instead, you need to have expertise or “credibility” for others to have confidence in your ability to lead them AND you need to have the emotional intelligence and likeability for others to want to follow your lead. Therefore, I believe that to be a good leader (whether you are leader a department, supervising a student or leading a client and family), you must have credibility and be nice!
- Where did you complete your CF? My first job was working in the public schools in North Carolina. My CF supervisor worked in another county, and therefore, the supervision was not as direct as I would have liked. However, she did the best that she good to give me a rich opportunity to learn from her experience. How does the career path you’ve traveled differ from the path you imagined as a new grad? I thought I would always be a full-time clinician throughout my career. Although I took a public speaking class in my undergrad program, I never imagined that I would travel all of the country and in more than a dozen countries around the world doing lectures and seminars. I also never imagined that I would be a “business woman” in developing and leading the largest pediatric speech pathology program in the world at Cincinnati Children’s. Finally, I never imagined that I would write a clinical book.
- What book do you most frequently recommend? Is there a book that has greatly impacted how you think? Honestly, I most frequently recommend the book that I wrote called Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Conditions: A Comprehensive Guide to Clinical Management. I have been frustrated over the years about the fact that grad schools provide little information about how structural anomalies affect speech and resonance. As a result, there are a lot of affected children do not get the services that they need. Because of this, education about clefts, malocclusion, VPI and resonance disorders has been my passion. Therefore, I wrote this book (and added almost 300 videos) to serve as a very practical guide for clinicians and students.
- What is your favorite failure? I worked in the public schools in my first year of practice. I had an 8 year old on my case load with a loud nasal rustle/nasal emission. I referred him to an ENT, who looked in his mouth, said everything was fine, and told me to continue speech therapy. At that time, I thought he knew more about this than I did. Therefore, I did speech therapy for a year with no success. All I did was further negatively affect his self-esteem. I should have referred him to a craniofacial team, where the experts would know that he needed surgery, and not speech therapy. The only good news is that this experiences fueled my passion for patients with velopharyngeal insufficiency, with and without cleft palate.
- What areas in the field of speech-language pathology do you see the most opportunity for growth? I think telehealth is going to totally change our typical model of service delivery, particularly in healthcare. It’s hard for families to disrupt their weekly routine to come to therapy once or twice week. With telehealth, we could provide therapy at the patient’s convenience in their home.
- What are bad recommendations you hear in the field or in your area of expertise? Children with velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPI), dental/occlusal anomalies, or other structural anomalies are recommended for speech therapy, when what they really need is correction of the abnormal structure. For example, sometimes ENTs will recommend a child for speech therapy for correction of hypernasality after adenoidectomy. Of course, that doesn’t make sense because the adenoidectomy changed the structure and speech therapy cannot correct abnormal structure, only abnormal function (articulation). Unfortunately, due to a lack of knowledge in this area, SLPs will try to do speech therapy with these children because of the ENT’s referral.
- What was a notable turning point or shift in your career? How did this impact your professional journey? One of my biggest turning points was publication of my first book on cleft palate and craniofacial anomalies. As a result of the book and some of my lectures, I began to get invitations to give lectures and do seminars all of the country and the world.