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January 27, 2012

MGH Institute of Health Professions Associate Professor Marjorie Nicholas, PhD, CCC-SLP, is assisting U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, former D-Arizona, recover from a 2011 shooting.

Dr. Nicholas, a speech-language pathologist who has taught at the MGH Institute since 2001, first worked with Rep. Giffords for two weeks last October. Along with colleague Nancy Helm-Estabrooks, the two women assisted Rep. Giffords regain language skills the congresswoman lost in the aftermath of the January 8, 2011 attack that left six people dead and 13 wounded.

“It was a great experience, and I was honored to have the opportunity to help her,” said Dr. Nicholas, an expert in adult neurogenic communication disorders, and director of the MGH Institute’s Aphasia Center. “Gabby was engaging and upbeat. She’s very inspiring.”

Rep. Giffords’ condition, known as Aphasia, is when a person who has suffered brain trauma has difficulty with language. Aphasia normally occurs when a person has a stroke, although it also can be caused by a head injury.

The SLP colleagues, who are collaborating on a book, implemented a multi-faceted treatment program that addressed Giffords’ communication issues.  

Judging by Giffords’ attendance at the January 24 State of the Union address just days after she announced her retirement, Dr. Nicholas said, “I wouldn’t be surprised to see her again in the political arena at some point in the future.”

Dr. Nicholas was interviewed on CBSBoston/WBZ January 27, 2012 about her work.

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