Featured Alumna: Yomna Elsiddig ’13
When Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology graduate Yomna Elsiddig ’13 traveled to her parents’ native country of Sudan, she was pleasantly surprised to find that public attitudes there about people who stutter were generally positive and comparable to Western countries.
But discovering that there were only three licensed speech-language pathologists to treat 34 million people in the African nation was shocking.
“There’s no undergraduate or graduate speech-pathology program in the country, so people have to travel abroad to study. Those who stay must learn things on their own, from each other, and the Internet,” says Elsiddig, who works at the Providence Speech and Hearing Center in Orange County, California.
Her initial interest in communication disorders was spurred by early visits to her grandfather’s remote village, where he was never treated for aphasia after having two strokes. She made two trips to Sudan to work on her master’s thesis while she was a student at the IHP, receiving financial support from the Institute’s Christopher Norman ’07 Fund, which was created in 2011 in memory of the speech-language pathology alumnus who tragically passed away in 2010.
Elsiddig anticipated Sudan would mirror other Muslim countries, where many people with disabilities have difficulty integrating into society. But even with a more welcoming attitude, she notes that a majority of people—especially the 80 percent of the population that lives outside the capital city of Khartoum— never become aware of treatment opportunities. She intends to continue volunteering in Sudan and host workshops where she can pass on what she has learned at the Institute.
“I realize that I have to start small, but every little thing can help the situation,” she says. “There needs to be a much greater awareness that these disabilities can be treated.”