Audrey Holland Tribute From Pelagie Beeson, Ph.D., BC-ANCDS

Audrey came to the University of Arizona in the Fall of 1991 as a Professor and Department Head of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences.  Our department had just received NIH funding for the National Center for Neurogenic Communication Disorders, and Audrey was one of the Principal Investigators.  I had completed my Ph.D. at Arizona the year before and was working as a Research Scientist for the Department of Neurology.  Good fortune came when Audrey called me before she arrived in town to ask if I would be interested in joining the Center research team — and that began our collaboration. 

Audrey came with a vision to develop our aphasia group program.  She had visited the North York Aphasia Centre in Toronto and was raring to go.  Audrey often acknowledged the fact that we were not the first to implement aphasia groups in the university setting.  In fact, Dan Boone had facilitated an aphasia group in our department during his tenure  I can still picture it with 10-12 individuals sitting in a large circle.  But Audrey wanted smaller conversation groups where relationships would develop as we focused on maximizing communication.  So, we started our first group, then second, third, and fourth, and by 1995, we had about 8 aphasia groups as well as a family/caregiver group.

We immersed ourselves in the milieu of Living with Aphasia.  Of course, we were also conducting research with many one-on-one sessions  with a particular focus on naming impairments and lexical retrieval. But week after week, as we facilitated groups, our lives were intertwined with people with aphasia and their care partners.  The workload was shared by graduate students  Ph.D. and Master’s  as well as collaboration with Nancy Helm Estabrooks who ultimately joined our neurogenic center and spent her winters in Tucson.

Audrey and I co-authored a number of papers and chapters during that time, but the one that stuck in my mind as particularly meaningful to me was a short commentary published in Aphasiology in 1993, which focused on Finding a New Sense of Self.  This was one of those collaborations where I lost track of what words were Audrey’s and what were mine because we shared the same view  which we had learned from our patients.  Here is a quotation from the paper:

“The impact of aphasia can be life-changing to the extent that one’s sense of self is shaken, and a new self-image may be in the making from the first wakeful moment following the stroke.  Therefore, as clinicians, we will be involved with individuals and family members as they mourn the insult to the pre-stroke identity, and as they make adjustments to the sense of self.”

This is so true, and Audrey always conveyed that it is a privilege to walk beside patients and family down the road to recovery  but the destination was not the same place the person was before the stroke  and Audrey emphasized that it’s a path where our interactions should reinforce the individual’s self-worth as we support an often fragile self-image during the time of crisis  and, when we have the opportunity  over the long haul.  One of Audrey’s beloved patients, Roger Ross, had been a highly successful international businessman before his stroke.  He shared with us that life was good before the stroke, and life after the stroke is different  but it's good too.

Audrey knew this truth  and helped patients, families, and students to understand and embrace it.

Audrey’s influence has been worldwide from her papers, presentations, tests, and her relational influence and collaboration with so many in the field. But when I think about her time at Arizona, I think about her influence in the tradition of Norman Geschwind  where she mentored students in the classroom, the lab, and in the clinical setting who have gone on to do great things and to mentor other generations of clinicians and clinical scientists.  She was the primary mentor to some and a bonus mentor to others.  Among those who come to mind during her tenure are:

Laura Murray, Larry Boles, Amy Ramage, Fabi Hirsh, Lyn Turkstra, Lisa Milman, Tami Hopper, Nidhi Mahendra, Jessica Richardson, Julius Fridriksson, Sharon Antonucci, and Maya Henry. Of course, each of these individuals beget their own list of influential progeny who continue to influence the field.  


Pelagie Beeson, Ph.D., BC-ANCDS
Share this post:

Comments on "Audrey Holland Tribute From Pelagie Beeson, Ph.D., BC-ANCDS"

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment