Interview with a Researcher – Amy Fullerton, PhD, BCS-S, CCC-SLP

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Please give a brief background:  (Employment, interests of study, special honors/certifications etc.)

I’m an assistant professor at Jacksonville University in Florida and I teach Dysphagia, Counseling, and Motor Speech Disorders and am also a board-certified swallowing specialist. I worked clinically for 12 years in acute care and then in an outpatient head and neck cancer clinic where I developed an interest in why this population was so refractory to intervention. I completed my doctoral studies a year and a half ago and You Can Do It GIFs | Tenormy dissertation focused on airway sensation following radiation therapy. TLDR: I have not (yet) found a cure for radiation-associated-dysphagia!🤓



If you could conduct any research study on any topic/issue (meaning money/funding, time, subjects, IRB, etc. are NOT a problem!), what would it be? In other words, what’s your dream study?!

I’d love to continue my work on airway sensation (e.g. why do people silently aspirate?) and after having looked at those s/p radiation, another population would be those with trachs to help differentiate upper from lower airway sensation. Those with trachs would tell us more about lower airway sensation.

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If you could change one thing about having to do research, what would it be?

Our profession (including our academic cohort) could stand to be less clique-ish.  The world of dysphagia research is a very small world and that can sometimes feel suffocating and stifle independent thinking.


What’s one thing you think clinicians should be excited about in our field regarding research?

I tell my students the sky’s the limit!🙆‍♀️🤩 We’re such a young field that we have so much to learn! Research is literally limitless. Of course, the flip side of that is that we know so little, which can be discouraging for those in the trenches.


What’s one thing you think researchers should be excited about in our field regarding clinical practice?

Friends Joey Tribbiani GIF - Friends JoeyTribbiani ThankYou GIFsClinicians are hungry! They WANT to know, they worship best practices🙌. I am constantly amazed at how adaptable clinicians are and how eager they are to know the most recent and best-supported approaches for every population and topic. I think a common misconception amongst researchers who aren’t clinically involved is that clinicians tend to rely on anecdotal or word-of-mouth approaches and this is simply not true.


I feel the Results section of studies can be the most misunderstood or difficult to navigate through, what tidbits or tips/tricks can you share to help clinicians process these sections?

One of my best research mentors once told me he reads the discussion section first.  The results are important, but for a thorough interpretation of what they mean, head to the discussion!😉🤯


Could you pick one technical jargon (e.g. “linear regression” “ANOVA” “two-tailed test” etc.) to explain in a relatable and easily understandable way (real-life, simple examples get bonus points😉)?

Linear regression is a model of predicting one variable based on another. For example, we could regress penetration-aspiration scores (independent variable) on cough strength; a hypothesis for this model might be whether reduced cough strength contributes to aspiration.🤔


What’s the one thing you think is important for practicing clinicians to know/understand when reading research?Season 2 The One With The Breast Milk GIF by Friends - Find & Share on GIPHY

Know the authors and their implicit biases. Researchers, while striving for neutrality, are biased towards or against outcomes.  A good way around this is to look for the question the researchers are asking and then ask yourself if their approach was an acceptable way of addressing that question.🤨


What’s one thing you think is important for researchers to know/understand about clinical practice?

Absolutes do not work in clinical practice. Guidelines are wonderful, but there needs to be wiggle room. Clinicians are looking for straightforward concepts they can apply to multiple scenarios and populations. Flexibility is paramount.👍


What is something you believe researchers could do better to #bridgethegap?gif friends rachel green friends* first friends gifs ayy pinkmanjesse •

CCC’s are gold. I think all researchers should have at least a pinky toe in the clinic, not just know someone who is a clinician. Without that boots-on-the-ground perspective, you won’t know how or why things are the way they are and what needs to be addressed or changed.



What is something you believe clinicians could do better to #bridgethegap?

Make friends with a researcher or even someone outside of our field and make an effort to see things from their perspectives. As a clinician, I have friends in our allied fields (ENT, GI) and frequently run things by them, and am always surprised about how they see issues vs how I see them. We all tend to work in silos or become myopic, and seeing things from another’s perspective helps avoid that trap.👏👏

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Can you provide your contact email if clinicians want to reach out? (Honors system for everyone to be respectful of your time)



A huge thanks to Dr. Fullerton for taking the time with all her responses and groundbreaking contribtions!! ❤️

P as in PHOEBE.




(Excuse all the F•r•i•e•n•d•s gifs as it was clearly on my mind while binging😂)


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