Magnificent Era of Synchronicity

The surge in global synergies over the past few years has increased the visibility of our field with globally focused research, education, professional opportunities, and service presentations at professional conferences for numerous Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD)-related organizations. Student demand for global health experiences is growing, and global health programs in CSD and related professions have been shown to be powerful recruiting tools for excellent students (Godkin & Savageau, 2001; Haq et al., 2000; Mutchnikck, Moyer, & Stern, 2003). Recognizing this demand, more and more of us are promoting study abroad and offering international experiences, courses in global health, and global health tracks.

Wonderful global synergies in higher education in communication sciences and disorders (CSD) have been evolving in synchrony, with a veritable explosion of global interests and opportunities emerging over the past few years. Far too numerous to list in detail here, these include

At the same time, there has been growing visibility of global projects in CSD through websites, blogs, social networking venues, and print publications. We have also witnessed a steady increase in visibility of globally focused research, education, and service presentations at the professional conferences of numerous CSD-related organizations.

Why Go Global in CSD Education?

Of course, the drive to engage in humanitarian causes and share the benefits of service, education, or research projects with underserved people is fundamental to the motivation of many who engage in international work. In contexts where CSD education is not yet established we may feel especially compelled to help invest in projects leading toward sustainable foundations in our field abroad. Still, most of our motivations are not so altruistic. We and our students benefit greatly from stimulating adventures, new friends and colleagues, career development opportunities, and deep learning.

Although there is a scarcity of research on the outcomes of global experiences for students in our professions, there is ample evidence across other health-related disciplines that global experiences (including short- and long-term volunteer opportunities, service-learning projects, and externships) improve clinical skills; foster attitudinal changes and deepen diversity perspectives; enhance cross-cultural communication; and improve understanding of service delivery issues and the relationship of health to social, economic, and political factors. Such experiences also make it more likely that students will seek future professional placements geared toward underserved populations (Bissonette & Route, 1994; Drain et al., 2007; Godkin & Savageau, 2001, 2003; Haq et al., 2000; Mutchnikck, Moyer, & Stern, 2003; Ramsey, Haq, Gjerde, & Rothernberg, 2004; Thompson, Huntington, Hunt, Pinsky, & Brodie, 2003). This bodes well for addressing needs for speech-language pathologists and audiologists to serve underserved groups, such as rural, economically disadvantaged, and immigrant populations. It also bodes well for research scientists needed to help build the CSD evidence base related to such populations.

It is important to consider that global experiences per se are not sufficient to meet the many associated laudable goals. It is vital that educators collaborate in designing and offering global health learning opportunities through courses, certificate programs, or minors and pre- and postservice training programs for the sake of ensuring intentional targeting of learning outcomes (Bateman, Baker, Hoorenborg, & Ericsson, 2001).

Interdisciplinary opportunities related to global health abound. Opportunities emerging synchronically are not limited to CSD. In fact, we in CSD lag behind the primary medicine and nursing professions in terms of expansive, well-organized global health initiatives and stand to benefit greatly from global health advances in related professions.

The Global Summit on Higher Education in Communication Sciences and Disorders

The upcoming Global Summit presents prospects for people from around the globe to interact and plan for greater collaboration regarding this vital topic. The summit will be held on Thursday, April 19, 2012, the first full day of the Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CAPCSD) annual conference, which runs from Wednesday afternoon, April 18, until Saturday afternoon, April 21. The goal is to foster collaboration and information exchange to enhance international education and research in CSD. Topic areas include overviews of higher education in CSD in numerous countries and regions worldwide; collaborating effectively in specific countries and regions; global initiatives and opportunity updates from related professional associations; funding for international collaborations in teaching, education, and research; student and faculty international education, research, and service possibilities; help for newly developing programs and for new program directors; educating future clinicians to work with bilingual populations; integrating content from the WHO World Report on Disability in student education; international use of strategic student competency assessments; and challenges, pitfalls, and successes in international research collaborations. In addition to taking part in interactive sessions, workshops, and primers on these topics and more, participants will enjoy rich networking opportunities and an international banquet and celebration.

Plans for the Global Summit arose out of the CAPCSD strategic planning process in 2009, during which it became clear that the Council’s mission of information sharing, leadership development, academic program networking, and enhanced education and scholarship would benefit from increased input from a greater number of non-U.S. programs. Also, it was clear that many non-U.S. programs, especially in countries where education in CSD is newly developing, would benefit from greater inclusion in the activities and projects of the Council.

Stay tuned for sharing of proceedings from the Global Summit on the CAPCSD website.

Future Directions

We may look forward with confidence to more great global synergies in CSD, including

  • more collaboration in education, research, and clinical service beyond national borders
  • greater sharing of global health opportunities for students across a wide array of disciplines and institutions, which enhances interdisciplinary learning and collaboration
  • stronger representation of CSD content and participation by a much greater number of us in global health conferences and associations, including the Global Health Education Consortium
  • greater foci on ethical aspects of global experiences, including heightened attention to risks that students and faculty could perpetuate postcolonial myths and biases in the non-Western world and to the importance of mutual benefit, sustainability, cultural sensitivity, and critical scope of practice concerns that vary from one region to another (Crowley & Baigorri, 2011; Crump & Sugarman, 2008; Shah & Wu, 2008)
  • a growing evidence base for the effectiveness of global health coursework and projects through expanded applications of knowledge-based assessments and validated cultural competency instruments implemented before, during, and after components of global programming.

Of course, the trends will be facilitated by increased accessibility of online and other distance communication capabilities and more corresponding technology in hard-to-reach places.

While the importance of global learning and the benefits of international experience and exchange have been recognized for some time, the sheer number of synergistic opportunities we are experiencing now—across individuals, institutions, organizations, professions, cultures, and nations—is exciting and compelling.


Bissonette, R., & Route, C. (1994). The educational effects of clinical rotations in nonindustrialized countries. Family Medicine, 26, 226–231.

Crowley, C., & Baigorri, M. (2011). Effective approaches to international work: Substance and sustainability for speech-language pathology student groups. Perspectives on Global Issues in Communication Sciences and Related Disorders, 1, 27–35.

Crump, J. A., & Sugarman, J. (2008). Ethical considerations for short-term experiences by trainees in global health. Journal of the American Medical Association, 300, 1456–1458.

Drain, P. K., Primack, A., Hunt, D., Fawzi, W. W., Holmes, K. K., & Gardner, P. (2007). Global health in medical education: A call for more training and opportunities. Academic Medicine, 82, 226–230.

Godkin, M., & Savageau, J. (2001). The effect of a global multiculturalism track on cultural competence of preclinical medical students. Family Medicine, 33, 178–186.

Godkin, M., & Savageau, J. (2003). The effect of medical students’ international experiences on attitudes toward serving underserved multicultural populations. Family Medicine, 35, 273–278.

Haq, C., Rothernberg, D., Gjerde, C., Bobula, J., Wilson, C., Bickley, L., Joseph, A. (2000). New world views: Preparing physicians in training for global health work. Family Medicine, 32, 566–572.

Mutchnikck, I. S., Moyer, C. A., & Stern, D. T. (2003). Expanding the boundaries for medical education: Evidence for cross-cultural exchanges. Academic Medicine, 78(10), S1–S5.

Ramsey, A. H., Haq, C., Gjerde, C., & Rothernberg, D. (2004). Career influence of international health experience during medical school. Family Medicine, 36, 412–426.

Shah, S., & Wu, T. (2008). The medical student global health experience: Professionalism and ethical implications. Journal of Medical Ethics, 34, 375–378.

Thompson, M. J., Huntington, M. K., Hunt, D., Pinsky, L. E., & Brodie, J. J. (2003). Educational effects of international health electives on U.S. and Canadian medical students and residents: A literature review. Academic Medicine, 78, 342–347.