The Swallowing Lab of Dr. Rosemary Martino — In the heat of the race to advance dysphagia research and treatment
This year’s Annual Meeting of the Dysphagia Research Society (DRS) took place February 25th to 27th in sunny Tucson, Arizona. The DRS was established a quarter century ago to enhance and encourage interdisciplinary and innovative research pertinent to swallowing function and dysfunction. The 2016 Annual Meeting brought together a wide range of clinicians, researchers, resident physicians, fellows, and students who take care of patients with swallowing disorders.
The Swallowing Lab was well-represented at this year’s event. A team of three affiliated students and clinicians successfully presented posters on their academic research, while Dr. Martino’s pivotal work in Head and Neck Cancer swallowing disorder treatment was recognized by the society with an Oral Presentation Award.
As part of the Scientific Poster Exhibit, second-year PhD candidate Elissa Greco presented her systemic review of published literature evaluating the efficacy of exercise for head and neck cancer patients on swallow physiology, function, and quality of life. Greco’s findings revealed that future randomized control trials are sorely needed in order to accurately identify those dysphagia interventions that most benefit this patient population.
From the perspective of improving care and screening of Parkinson’s patients, Speech Language Pathology (SLP) clinician Erin Yeates has been busy working on a review of published literature to identify any existing dysphagia screening tools for adults with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Yeates has determined that there is a gap in assessment of this patient group, who may be not be aware of their swallowing difficulties. Her work establishes that more research is needed to develop a high precision screening tool, which is valid across the spectrum of PD severity.
Rounding out the poster presentations was the work of first-year PhD candidate Victoria Currie, whose research focused
on studying established clinical practice in early dysphagia identification of the acute stroke patient population. Currie’s work assessed and compared the accuracy of informal swallowing screening protocols to more formal protocol, such as the TOR-BSST© screening tool. Her work underscored the greater accuracy of the formal screening protocol and need as part of routine post-stroke patient evaluation.
Finally, Dr. Rosemary Martino was honoured to be the 2016 co-recipient of the Head and Neck Cancer award. Funded by the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance (HNCA), this award is open at all disciplines presenting swallowing research in patients with head and neck cancer. Dr. Martino received the award for the presentation she gave on her longitudinal study investigating changes in the swallow status of head and neck cancer patients treated with chemo-radiotherapy.
The Dysphagia Research Society recognized Dr. Martino’s presentation as fulfilling the mandate of the HNCA “… to advance prevention, detection, treatment and rehabilitation of oral, head and neck cancer through public awareness, research, advocacy and survivorship.” As a result of this significant undertaking in longitudinal research, Dr. Martino has established that there is a need to offer this patient group effective therapy protocols tailored to the specific swallow impairments involving the throat and airway resultant from their cancer treatment.