Teresa Gray

2013 New Century Scholars Doctoral Scholarship, 2016 New Investigators Research Grant

A Successful Return

Home may truly be where the heart is but sometimes we must venture far afield to fulfill the dream that will, in time, allow the return home. A fairy tale? No, it's the real life professional trajectory of Teresa Gray.

Gray is a native Californian, with a bachelor's degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz and a master's in speech-language pathology from San Jose State University. After receiving her clinical degree, Gray worked at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Los Angeles, the facility known for the widely used Rancho Los Amigos Scale that measures cognitive level in patients with brain injuries. There, Gray discovered the serious need for speech-language pathology therapies for bilingual individuals with aphasia and recognized her own desire to work for solutions.

She then looked to find a mentor in a field in which few existed throughout the United States. Swathi Kiran, one of those few, was at Boston University. Fortunately, Gray was accepted into the university's doctoral program and traveled across the county to study with Kiran.

Today, Gray is back in California, an assistant professor in the Department of Communicative Disorders and director of the Gray Matter Lab at San Francisco State University where her research focuses on improving therapies for bilingual people who have had a stroke. Gray's approach is to use both linguistic and nonlinguistic treatments to determine how these individuals handle linguistic and nonlinguistic information with respect to cognitive control with the ultimate goal of improving language communication.

In her research, she theorizes that "If it is possible to treat nonlinguistic cognitive control but see improvements in language abilities, therapies could be offered for both linguistic and nonlinguistic domains. This could greatly affect treatment options for bilingual people who do not have access to treatments in both of their languages." Gray believes that these bilingual individuals would have better outcomes when working with monolingual service providers (who currently number 95% of ASHA clinicians).

Gray, who is a recipient of an ASHFoundation 2013 New Century Scholars Doctoral Scholarship as well as a 2016 New Investigator Research Grant, is certain that being honored with the awards set her confidently on her current path. "The ASHFoundation grants have been a tremendous stepping stone," she says. "It's well known in the field that ASHFoundation awards have a high bar of excellence. By receiving the awards I met the bar and this proved to me that if I continue to strive for excellence in my research I'll be successful. The honors have given me a renewed sense of validation and the assurance of knowing that my work is important and of high quality."

Incidentally, but not surprisingly, Gray's mentor Swathi Kiran is herself a three-time ASHFoundation research grant recipient—and a testimonial to the ASHFoundation's confidence that the benefits to the community resulting from its awards continue well beyond the contributions of the recipient. A mentor is, after all, one who transmits the knowledge of her generation to a new generation to build upon. Kiran is a teacher, an inspiration, and a guide to the personal and professional success that is clearly already happening for Teresa Gray, mentor to the future.

Published December 2018

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