Elise Davis-McFarland has dedicated her career to supporting children and the vulnerable, as well as professionalizing and promoting the field of speech-language pathology. From a school speech-language pathologist in North Carolina, she rose to oversee South Carolina’s Medicaid program. Later, Davis-McFarland helped develop and head the interdisciplinary graduate communication sciences and disorders program at the Medical University of South Carolina. She’s also taken her expertise overseas, receiving a Rotary Faculty Fellowship to teach speech-language pathology at the Medical University of Southern Africa.
A longtime ASHA volunteer and leader on committees ranging from practice guidelines and ethics to multicultural issues, Davis-McFarland will continue to promote excellence in speech-language pathology and audiology as ASHA’s 2018 president. We recently spoke with her about her views on what members, their patients and students and their employers can gain from the CCCs.
ASHA: What are your thoughts about the value and importance of ASHA certification?
Davis-McFarland: I think it’s very important because it ensures that graduates have a certain level of education and competence based on the courses they’ve taken, as well as the clinical experiences they’ve had. Certified individuals have at least a master’s degree that covers each area of speech-language pathology they’re likely to come across in the real world, like disability and communication disorders that occur at various stages of life.
People who are certified have provided services for people across the lifecycle — infants, children and adults of all ages, including the elderly and diverse populations. Whether that’s diversity of nationality, ethnicity or language proficiency, certified speech-language pathologists and audiologists are provided information, education and clinical experiences that give them the tools to interact with people of all backgrounds. So when an employer hires someone who is certified, they can be sure that person is a professional who has had a wide range of experiences.
ASHA: The certification program recently observed its 65th anniversary. What does that longevity say about ASHA’s commitment to high professional standards and excellence?
Davis-McFarland: ASHA is really dedicated to high professional standards and competence, and I think the fact that certification has continued for so long is truly a testament to that commitment. But we haven’t stood still. The standards for certification have evolved over the years to keep the profession current. For example, we’ve worked with colleges and universities to develop curricula educating graduates about the various disorders as our understanding of those disorders and treatments have changed.
ASHA: What would you say to employers looking to hire an SLP or audiologist?
Davis-McFarland: When you hire an ASHA-certified SLP or audiologist, you can be sure that person has reached a high-level of education and competence. You know you’re getting a lifelong learner, because to maintain the CCCs you have to complete a requisite number of continuing education hours every three years. Certified members also have a professional community of peers and resources they can depend on for current research on evidence-based practice or to answer questions they have about assessment and treatment.
ASHA: What opportunities do you plan to take advantage of to promote the value of ASHA certification during your term?
Davis-McFarland: ASHA’s Board recently voted to continue the “Value of the CCCs” campaign for at least three more years. That’s a great opportunity to keep promoting the ways certified ASHA professionals improve lives. It’s something I am constantly calling people’s attention to, especially people considering going into the profession. My goal is to highlight the value of being certified. Every opportunity I have to speak with students in speech-language pathology or audiology programs, I talk about the certification, and I’ll continue to do that during my tenure as president and beyond.