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Exploring Life & Business with Leslie Wegner of North Texas Voice and Speech

Today we’d like to introduce you to Leslie Wegner.

Hi Leslie, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I served in the Army Band as a vocalist and flautist. Part of my job in the Army was to play for wounded warriors who were still hospitalized or in rehab recovering from combat injuries. This is where I first saw speech-language pathologists working in rehab for cognition and communication (not just treating stuttering and lisps, which typically comes to mind with speech therapy). When I left service, I knew I wanted to work with voices – not as a music teacher but in a medical setting.

I used my GI Bill to get my B.S. and M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology and started my career in skilled nursing facilities. There I practiced stroke, dementia, and TBI rehab for cognition, language, swallowing, and voice. On the side, I began seeing people for voice therapy for singers and Parkinson patients and adults with disabilities who use speech-generating devices to communicate. I had such wonderful experiences with my private patients and loved how much more I could give to their treatment – time, energy, resources, and treating the way that I thought was best for them as a clinician. I also loved the flexibility it gave me for my own family. In December of 2019, I made the decision to fully transition to private practice and officially opened in Feb 2020.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It was a very smooth transition until Covid shutdowns hit. We went from 32 brand new patients to 0 overnight, and teletherapy approval and capability took time. At the time, I was a mobile practice meaning, I went and saw patients in person at their homes. Most of the voice/swallowing treatments and assessments that we perform are inherently aerosol-generating, so that added another layer of complexity on top of a shortage of PPE.

We’ve been impressed with North Texas Voice and Speech, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
North Texas Voice and Speech is a medical-based speech-language pathology company that specializes in voice and swallowing disorders. We set ourselves apart in many ways – we offer mobile videostroboscopy and fiberendoscopic evaluations of swallowing (FEES) in the comfort and safety of your own home, usually significantly sooner than you would be able to schedule with a hospital. Your vocal folds vibrate too quickly to see under a regular camera light/scope so a special strobe light allows us to see the actual function and motion. Paired with a specialty voice assessment, it can change or modify diagnosis up to 50% of the time. Therapy is also done remotely as well, so patients don’t have to travel and can maintain safety during the pandemic.

With FEES, this also allows us to use your own food during testing and treatment. We understand occupational voice users, singers and actors in particular! Teachers, lawyers, customer service reps, podcasters, real estate agents, and anyone who talks all day for a living are all at a much higher risk for voice disorders. Rehabilitation is not just about recovery but also prevention for recurrence, and you want someone who gets your actual life to find practical solutions and make functional recommendations.

We treat the entire gamut of voice disorders – we offer programs including Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT LOUD) for patients with Parkinson disease, transgender/gender-affirming voice therapy services, aging voice, chronic vocal fatigue, muscle tension dysphonia, vocal cord dysfunction, spasmodic dysphonia, aftercare for polyps, nodules, cysts, etc. I’m the most proud that our number one compliment from patients is that we make them feel comfortable and cared for.

In terms of your work and the industry, what are some of the changes you are expecting to see over the next five to ten years?
I think highly tailored rehabilitation experiences outside of hospital settings are going to be highly sought after – people love customized healthcare solutions instead of one size fits all treatments, and Covid-19 has even further fueled this by letting doctors and clinicians see patients in their homes via teletherapy. I see teletherapy growing even more, and patients (and clinicians) love it! It saves office visits, drive time, waiting rooms, exposure, and makes the patients take ownership in their own therapy from the get-go.

Baby Boomers are also starting to hit the age that is more common for geriatric voice and swallowing disorders, and I think there will be a massive need in the coming years.

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Image Credits

Headshot – Donna Dicksson Photography

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