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Auburn professor receives Fulbright Specialist Award to teach medical speech-language pathology in Bulgaria

Gregory Spray

The Fulbright Specialist Program, funded by the U.S. Department of State, will send Assistant Professor of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences Gregory Spray to Bulgaria this May to teach medical students how to evaluate and treat motor speech disorders.

As of 2023, there are no medical speech-language pathologists practicing in Bulgarian hospitals. Spray will host workshops at the Medical University of Plovdiv to help train clinical practitioners.

“The goal of this work is to train the first generation, essentially, of medical speech-language pathologists in Bulgaria,” Spray said. “That way they can adequately provide assessment, treatment and prevention to people who have motor speech disorders, dysphagia or acquired language disorders. The core aspect that I'm doing for this is motor speech disorders and a little bit of the dysphagia, or the swallowing disorders.”

The Fulbright Specialist Program supports project-based exchange opportunities for U.S. academics and professionals to build relationships between countries. Fulbright specialists visit host institutions to share expertise, gain international experience and hone multicultural skills.

Spray’s visit will help meet Bulgaria’s urgent need for medical speech-language pathologists in hospitals and extend his expertise in cultural differences as a consideration of speech, language and hearing sciences education.

“One of our new areas that we have to train in for national credentials is multicultural issues. It’s also about building unique collaborations globally,” Spray said. “What this is going to allow me to do is have other colleagues and collaborators in other parts of the world who have very different sets of experiences and expertise than me. It’s a really unique experience because the two cultures are very different.”

An expert in motor speech disorders, dysphagia (swallowing difficulties) and cognition, Spray will return to Bulgaria for the third time this spring.

Previously, as a student and faculty member at Michigan State University, Spray participated in the educational initiative Erasmus+ Programme through the European Union to start building a medical speech-language pathology program and teach workshops on stuttering at South West University in Blagoevgrad. His collaborator throughout the programs is Fulbright alumna and Professor Dobrinka Georgieva, who leads Bulgaria’s first medical speech-language pathology master’s program.

Spray said this latest opportunity paves the way for further collaboration between Auburn University and Bulgarian institutions to expand medical speech-language pathology education.

“When you look at Auburn as a land grant university, it really gives us an opportunity to fulfill that land grant opportunity or that land grant mission on more of a global scale,” Spray said. “Auburn's really great at advancing the land grant mission in Auburn and within the state. But I think that this is an opportunity to really advance the land grant mission in other parts of the world as well.”

Find more information about the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences at the College of Liberal Arts website.

Tags: Speech Language and Hearing Sciences Community and Outreach Faculty

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