Brooke Beilman was no stranger to speech-language pathology.
When Beilman was 16 years old, her grandmother suffered an ischemic stroke that resulted in left side paralysis, cognitive-communication deficits and a complete transformation of Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). She needed assistance with tasks such as cooking, cleaning and taking care of herself.
Because of this, Beilman was exposed to the impact that speech-language pathologists (SLPs) could make on the lives of their patients.
This experience would shape the trajectory of her career and her personal mission in life.
“To be honest, my grandma did not get evidence-based care and that’s actually what made me want to go into speech (language) pathology because I really wanted to be a patient advocate for adults with dysphasia and swallowing disorders,” Beilman said.
“I knew that therapy could be really impactful for people who’d been through similar situations to what she had been through.”
“I wanted to really help patients and families understand what their loved ones are going through and how to support them in a way that’s person-specific.”
Motivated by her grandmother’s struggles with treatment and her own determination to provide person-first, evidence-based care, Beilman knew she wanted to pursue a career in speech-language pathology from a very young age.
Growing up in a family of health care professionals, both her aunt and mother attended Missouri State University at different periods throughout their career. Beilman also received her undergraduate degree from Missouri State.
A personal approach to speech-language pathology education
Though she had several options for graduate speech-language pathology programs, Beilman ultimately decided on Missouri State because of the culture, her history with the university and her mentor/mentee relationship with Jennifer Pratt, clinical associate professor in the department of communication sciences and disorders.
“She had done everything that I aspired to be as a clinician,” Beilman said. “She really took me under her wing as an undergrad.”
While studying for her speech-language pathology master’s, Beilman was able to shape her education to suit her personal interests. “Not every program does that,” Beilman said.
She was able to tailor her externship to her areas of interest.
“Documentation is extremely crucial and that’s a huge strength, I think, of the MSU program,” she said. Beilman shared that she also appreciates the program’s focus on counseling and communication of individualized care plans, an area of practice she is very passionate about.
“MSU does a really good job of making sure that we were equipped to have those types of interactions.”
What can you do as a speech-language pathologist?
Today, Beilman is pursuing a clinical doctorate in speech-language pathology at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions. She has maintained her relationship with her mentor, Pratt.
“She’s mentoring me in my research as a doctorate student,” Beilman said.
Not only have MSU’s programs impacted the success of her career, but Beilman herself helped guide current students of the speech-language pathology program.
“I’ve been working with the directors at MSU to help support the development of the medical side of the speech-language pathology program at MSU,” Beilman said.
She has even secured externship placements and permanent positions for several students.
Since graduating in 2017, Beilman has led a full career.
Beilman’s doctoral research is focused on studying the gaps in clinical education for head and neck cancer, and developing a program to teach clinicians how to evaluate and treat people for this condition.
“The goal is that my research will show that this program improves clinician confidence,” Beilman said. “It’s basically going to be my gift to the speech pathology community that if you take this, you will feel more confident in your ability to treat these patients.”
In addition to pursuing a doctorate, she is a full-time director of marketing and communications for TIMS Medical, a medical imaging software provider.
“I’ve always used that software in my clinical practice, so (it’s a) big honor to be asked to be the director of this department which is brand new.”
Her part-time work in acute care at a local trauma center helps inform TIMS Medical of software development.
What’s more, Beilman is teaching a dysphagia course through Maryville University in St. Louis, where she is originally from.
“There’s so many different things you can do,” said Beilman, sharing that the field of speech-language pathology is quite vast. “I have friends that specialize in cough. I’ve worked on a concussion team. I’ve looked at the correlations between emotional trauma and cognitive disorders.”
“You can really have many facets in your career, as I’ve already experienced in seven years.”