Dysphagia expert joins Penn State faculty

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Aarthi Madhavan, an expert in dysphagia, or swallowing disorders, has joined the faculty in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Penn State.

Dysphagia or swallowing disorders occur in individuals with a wide range of diagnoses, including neurological ones such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, ALS and dementia; head and neck cancers; or sometimes as a part of aging. Dysphagia has multiple negative health related consequences, including the development of malnutrition, pneumonia, and sometimes death.  

Madhavan, who started at the University this fall as an assistant professor, has a long-term research goal to improve screening and assessment procedures for dysphagia in older adults and prevent negative consequences from the occurrence of dysphagia. Her current research project includes developing a screening protocol for early identification of swallowing disorders in community-dwelling older adults. 

“My overarching research goal is in early identification of older adults who may be at risk for developing dysphagia, with the interest of preventing the occurrence of dysphagia and its negative consequences,” Madhavan said. "I work with the community-dwelling older adult population because they are group that are often ignored. Even if they do not present with clinical diagnoses that are known to cause dysphagia, they sometimes can still develop dysphagia.”

Diane Williams, head of the Department of Communication Sciences at Penn State, said Madhavan offers a new area of expertise to the department.

“Speech-language pathologists are the primary service providers to individuals with swallowing disorders. Many of our graduates take positions in medical settings where the assessment and treatment of dysphagia is one of their major responsibilities. Therefore, it is important that they be well prepared in this area,” Williams said.

Madhavan earned her doctoral degree in communication sciences and disorders at the University of Florida. Prior to completing her doctoral degree, she worked as a clinical speech therapist in a hospital setting, specializing in the evaluation and treatment of patients with dysphagia. 

Media Contacts: 
Last Updated August 29, 2017