Bob Augustine, 2023 President of ASHA and 40-year ASHA member, looks back on how his CCCs have guided his career — and forward to how they’ll influence his presidency
With a sparkle in his eyes, Bob Augustine reflected on the common thread of his decades-long career, which has brought him to a new position as the 2023 president of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA): the standards of care defined by his ASHA certification.
“I can trace it all back to ASHA,” Bob said. “My CCCs kept being that pathway to the next place and opportunity. That’s how I got my first job, and the next one and the next one.”
Bob discovered speech-language pathology as a college freshman when a peer in his residence hall was receiving speech therapy. After accompanying the student to a few sessions and helping him practice techniques, a speech-language pathology professor convinced Bob to take a course in the field.
“It was a life-changing moment when you learn something that just grabs you,” he said, remembering his early classes focused on speech-language intervention in children from birth through age three, then a new area of study.
Bob’s experience with early intervention opened the door to his first position: Establishing a birth-through-three program at an Illinois clinic, where he eventually earned his CCCs.
“I felt like I had become a member of an important quality assurance team,” he said. “The CCCs prompt standards of excellence and innovation. Our profession cannot be complacent — we must keep looking for the next information, innovating and pushing.”
The principles of ASHA certification have catapulted Bob towards several unique experiences, including teaching throughout the United States and overseas in Russia, serving as Dean of the Graduate School at Eastern Illinois University, and eventually working to improve the quality of graduate education on the Council of Graduate Schools, where Bob modeled his work after the standards of excellence defined by the CCCS.
Bob credits his early involvement in birth-through-three research and his CCCs for sparking a spirit of innovation throughout his career that will continue into his presidency.
“I’m focusing on meeting with members all over the United States and amplifying the innovation that they’re bringing to their jobs every day,” Bob said. “Many times, that innovation is not as readily recognized, but I’ve been discovering that our members constantly use their CCCs to innovate.”
Bob is especially proud of how members have risen above challenges caused by the pandemic. From taking evidence-based literature to modify practices with their clinics, to creating apps that help people with hearing disorders translate spoken language, to using telehealth to connect with and support families from afar, Bob is blown away by the innovation of ASHA members to solve new problems. He wants to continue to advocate and provide resources for members to thrive, not just during a global pandemic but always.
“One of the positives that has happened the last several years is the advancement of telehealth,” Bob said. “Now, you can stay connected to families even more effectively. Telehealth also allows us to bring services to more places, which means more multicultural global competencies.”
Bob is grateful for how challenges from the past few years have also helped ASHA grow as an organization. This includes diversifying the speech-language pathology field, promoting global competence, asking members for feedback and involving them in future actions and decisions. He looks forward to facilitating ASHA’s growth in the future.
Reflecting on his 40-plus years of ASHA membership, it is the intimate, one-on-one moments with patients that stand out to Bob the most. He remembers a 30-year-old mother of three who had a stroke and struggled to speak. In therapy, she prioritized regaining her speech so that she could teach her daughters how to read.
“I will never forget the day she could read, and those little girls and her husband sitting in my therapy room — it was a really emotional moment for me,” Bob said. “The value of this profession is that you have a huge impact on people’s lives in ways that are life-changing. Not everybody gets to do that.”
From his very first job to his role as ASHA President, Bob’s CCCs have inspired him to promote standards of excellence and push innovation forward. As he embarks on his presidency, Bob’s message for ASHA members follows a familiar theme within the organization’s history.
At ASHA’s founding in 1925, the first ASHA president, Robert West, told founders that they were “a group of brash young people who wanted to start something.”
Bob’s message to ASHA members in 2023?
“You’re today’s ‘brash young people,’” Bob said. “What do you want to start?”