Nancy grew up in an environment dominated by linguistics. Her father, a linguist with command of 10 languages, moved his family to an aboriginal rain forest area of Guatemala where he was researching Mayan languages. Nancy and her siblings grew up speaking English, Spanish, German, and Q’eqchi’. She majored in English Literature in college and halfway through a graduate program in English Literature someone suggested a career in speech-language pathology.
Nancy moved from San Francisco to graduate school in Speech/Language Pathology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. She knew immediately that the medical aspects of the field interested her most: aphasia, cleft palate, voice disorders, and cognitive-communication problems from neurological disorders.
When she finished graduate school, her dream job beckoned at Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center. It was a teaching hospital and world-renowned for treating the most complex cases anywhere. However, she had to love from San Francisco to Los Angeles, something she was willing to do for twelve months (“eighteen months maximum”).
Forty two years later, Nancy still calls Los Angeles home. She worked at Daniel Freeman Hospital in the 1980’s, at that time one of the country’s most respected rehabilitation hospitals. She spent eight months in a self-study brain dissection class at Cajal Neuropathology Laboratory at USC Medical Center, a project that changed her life forever. “Being able to see brain structures affected by disease or trauma changed the way I viewed speech and language skills forevermore.”
During this time, D. Frank Benson, M.D. moved to UCLA to become the Augustus S. Rose Professor of Neurology. A renowned scholar in the study of brain and behavior, he began NeuroBehavior Conferences at UCLA and Nancy assisted in leading his Aphasia Rounds at Daniel Freeman Hospital.
This was an exciting time in the 80’s and 90’s dealing with the neurological investigation of aphasia. Nancy was promoted to a newly established role of Clinical Specialist in Communication Disorders and Swallowing. She and a physical therapy colleague began to educate other rehabilitation hospitals in the United States in new approaches to Neuro-Rehabilitation for the Daniel Freeman/Carondelet Rehabilitation Centers of America program.
Bruce Dobkin, M.D., a neurologist at UCLA and Daniel Freeman Hospital , began a Neuro-Rehabilitation Program at UCLA in the late 1980’s and Nancy was recruited to join him in 1989. Clinical Speech Pathology services at the Medical Center at the time consisted of a pediatric speech-language pathologist and a part-time speech/language pathologist in the hospital. For a whirlwind few years, Nancy saw inpatients, outpatients, voice therapy patients to support the Division of Head and Neck Surgery, collaborated in setting up an outpatient swallowing program, and participated in two specialized Neurology Clinics.
In 1997 she began a private practice first at the UCLA 100 Medical Plaza Building and after five years moved to 2811 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica. She has been assisted by able colleagues, currently Davina Simantob and Richard Rodriguez. She and her colleagues continue to participate in the UCLA ALS Clinic and more recently provide group cognitive therapy to the Marilyn Hilton MS Achievement Center at UCLA.
“I am still incredibly grateful to be part of a community of helping professionals. I learn something new at every conference and with every patient! What could be more fulfilling than that?”