This month we profile Edward Johnson. Ed is a PhD Candidate in the Faculty of Health Sciences, Director, Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health, and finalist in the Australian Allied Health Awards in the category of Speech Pathologist of the Year
Please tell us a little about yourself? I’m an accidental speech pathologist. I fell into the job after studying an arts degree in Anglo-Saxon literature and linguistics, and pondering where my career would take me. I wrote a letter (snail mail, yes) to the Head of the Discipline of Speech Pathology at Sydney Uni to see if they’d have me. Ten years later, I’m pretty close to finishing a PhD in rural and remote disability support models. During that ten years, I finished the degree of Master of Speech Language Pathology, and moved to the central west to have a crack at rural practice. Now I’ve found my niche working with people with mental illness and intellectual disability. I’ve never been particularly wedded to the discipline itself, but I enjoy doing anything that helps people and makes them happy. In speech pathology, we can actually make it our clinical goal to smile! Things that make me smile include: cricket, my cat Katich, early Anglo-Saxon literature, my friends and family, and my long-suffering girlfriend Sarah (also a rural speech pathologist).
What is your research on? My research originally focused on person-centred stuttering management for adolescents with mild to moderate intellectual disability. This cohort proved to be a little too ambitious to recruit to, so I began looking at person-centred practice in disability supports in rural and remote Australia. I’ve studied the experiences, understandings, and expectations of families in the bush regarding disability supports and the NDIS. My families wanted innovative solutions so that they can have access to clinical supports no matter where they live, so I conducted some in-depth case studies in telepractice and disability, to prove that person-centred clinical supports can be delivered without regular in-person support. Key message: it’s not about the technology, it’s about the quality, expertise, and engagement of the key worker in the community.
What are the real world consequences of your research? Despite my background in the Arts, I never wanted to write a thesis that would sit on a shelf and attract dust. I always wanted to produce something relevant and usable. About a year ago I got together with a couple of social innovators from the University of NSW, and we founded Umbo. Umbo is an online platform that allows families to access quality clinical services no matter where they live. Families who were getting NDIS plans and couldn’t get a speech pathologist or OT to come to them, or couldn’t afford to get to a regional centre to see a clinician, can now access clinical services. More importantly, they can now access person-centred clinical services from supportive and expert OTs and speech pathologists. It offers choice for families, and exposure to best practice, which is so often a scarce commodity in the field of disability in speech pathology. Keen interest from therapists means that we expect to be able to offer clients a choice between somewhere in the vicinity of 50 clinicians in the next 12 months – a step towards real choice and control for all Aussies.
What does digital health mean to you? Digital Health (NBN-pending) means every Australian gets a fair shake of the sauce bottle, so-to-speak. We can be brave and share our knowledge with each other, rather than competing in market-thin areas. We can partner with local communities across the country (and the world) and learn about different cultures, different views, and do our little bit to support fellow rural Australians through tough times. And if I do my job well, I might even make them smile!
Connect with Ed:
A very big thank you to our October Research Student Profile, Ed!