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Misericordia University speech-language pathology student wins Von Drach Award

Samantha R. Buldo of Dingmans Ferry, a speech-language pathology (SLP) graduate student at Misericordia University, received the 2018 Von Drach Memorial Scholarship by the Pennsylvania Speech-Language-Hearing Association (PSHA) at the 59th annual PSHA Convention in Pittsburgh.

Misericordia University SLP students have received 10 out of the last 11 Von Drach scholarship awards. The prestigious award is presented annually to an outstanding student from one of the state’s 14 SLP academic programs in honor of Dr. Robert Von Drach. Recipients are students who exhibit strong leadership abilities, outstanding academic performance, exceptional clinical skills, and scholarship within the profession.

A job-shadowing experience with her aunt sparked Buldo’s interest in the specialty field of communicative sciences and disorders, according to the essay she wrote for the Von Drach Memorial Scholarship Committee. The Misericordia student’s family member had been in the field of speech-language pathology for more than 30 years, working in a specialized school for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The opportunity expanded Buldo’s desire to aid the special needs population in her community. The Delaware Valley High School graduate joined her alma mater’s Peer Buddies Club, which planned after-school activities and social events once a month for students with special needs in the Milford area school.

“It was also through Peer Buddies that I was able to truly see the impact of speech and language therapy on these students’ lives as over the course of several years I witnessed their immense growth,’’ the daughter Aileen Buldo and the late Charles Buldo wrote. “Being in this club solidified my decision to pursue a career in speech-language pathology.’’

Helping others has been a constant theme during her collegiate years at Misericordia University, where she enrolled in the five-year, Master of Science degree program in speech-language pathology. An active member of PSHA and the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association, she worked as a student research assistant with professors in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology.

She worked for two years with Associate Professor Hunter Manasco, Ph.D., C.C.C.-S.L.P., compiling and analyzing research data on motor speech for people with Parkinson’s disease. Furthermore, she contributed to research projects concerning clinicians’ ability to identify signs of child abuse in the autism-spectrum-disorder population and a survey of the use of iPad applications at Misericordia University’s Speech-Language and Hearing Center.

The successful research projects provided Buldo with additional opportunities to enhance her professional writing skills. In collaboration with Glen Tellis, Ph.D., C.C.C.-S.L.P., professor and chair of the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Dr. Manasco, they are writing an anatomy and physiology textbook for undergraduate SLP education. Dr. Tellis, Buldo and others also are updating the current edition of “An Advanced Review of Speech-Language Pathology’’ textbook.

In 2017, Buldo created new, innovative diagrams of structures of the speech and hearing mechanism with the academic department’s Anatomage virtual dissection table. The collaborative effort with three other SLP students lead to her presenting a one-hour oral seminar on the subject at the 2017 ASHA Convention.

“I would not have had most of these incredible opportunities to advance my academic, clinical, and overall well-being if not for Misericordia University,’’ wrote Buldo, who holds a 4.0 grade point average. “These experiences have strengthened me as a clinician and researcher, and I know that I am fully prepared to begin my professional career as an SLP.

“The field of SLP has allowed me to combine my passion for service and helping others with my desire to be intellectually challenged – I know I have found my niche. I am eager to continue expanding my knowledge and make contributions to the field,’’ she added.

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