Gainesville, Fla. - Two University of Florida communication science departments have joined to form the largest academic program of its kind in Florida.
The merger of the department of communication sciences and disorders in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with the department of communicative disorders in the College of Public Health and Health Professions was announced in May as part of a series of university cost-cutting measures.
Now, the newly created department of communicative disorders, under the leadership of Christine Sapienza, Ph.D., is moving forward with a broad base of academic and clinical research programs.
The consolidation provides new opportunities for competitive research growth and graduate education, said Michael G. Perri, Ph.D., interim dean of the College of Public Health and Health Professions.
"In response to the state budget shortfall, we worked closely with the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the chairs of the respective departments to develop a plan that would eliminate duplication, reduce costs and produce a merged department with a stronger focus on research and Ph.D. education," Perri said.
The expanded department, located in the College of Public Health and Health Professions at the UF Health Science Center, has 45 faculty members and offers a bachelor's degree in communication sciences and disorders, a master's degree in speech language pathology and on-campus and distance-learning Doctor of Audiology programs. U.S. News and World Report ranks the audiology program sixth in the nation and the speech pathology program is ranked 12th. The newly merged department offers a Ph.D. program in areas of speech, language and hearing science.
The department also delivers a full range of speech and hearing services through clinics on UF's campus and in the Gainesville community and continues to partner with Shands HealthCare for rehabilitation services.
Researchers in the department of communicative disorders are studying cochlear implants and hearing aid technology; hearing-loss identification, treatment and prevention; neurological disease processes including Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease and stroke; head and neck cancer; swallowing disorders; reading/spelling problems; and dyslexia, to name a few.
Several researchers in the two departments were already collaborating with one another, said Sapienza, who was named chair of the newly expanded department of communicative disorders after serving as the chair of the department of communication sciences and disorders in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences since 2005. The merger allows for even more research partnerships within the department and with others in the college and UF Health Science Center, she said.
"We couldn't be more excited to be in the College of Public Health and Health Professions and the Health Science Center, where the flexibility and clinical research focus allows us to maximize growth," Sapienza said. "We are now next to our colleagues in PHHP and down the road from the College of Medicine, allowing us to optimize the clinical training model that should be going on at a university like UF."