The man for the job

21 September 2009

While a ratio of one man to twenty women may sound like something that would grab the attention of many males, Michael Dunne was not aware of the female dominance of the speech pathology workforce before commencing study.

A Master of Speech Language Pathology graduate from the University of Sydney, Michael began his postgraduate studies because he wanted to do something that made a difference, rather than shuffling papers and writing emails all day.

Speech pathologist Michael Dunne
Speech pathologist Michael Dunne

After doing some research Michael found that speech pathology really targeted the areas that can make a profound difference to someone's life. "A person's perception of their own self is dominated by the way they converse and interact with others and through a stroke or other neurological event this can be lost", he said. "Helping a client regain their speech, language, or ability to swallow safely can help them recall the skills they have lost, be it talking with their partner, returning to work, or just having a chat with friends over coffee."

Michael currently works as a speech pathologist at Nepean and Katoomba Hospitals and while he thinks that being a male has allowed him to 'stand out from the crowd' in terms of his career, he is adamant that encouraging more males into the profession is important.

"Honestly, I simply think that many males don't know that speech pathology exists, the professional challenges it can provide, or that the career involves much more than articulation and stuttering."

"I think males can provide differing perspectives on a variety of professional issues, which a solely female department may lack. This benefits a workplace in the same way a culturally diverse workplace provides different perspectives and a more realistic representation of what our clients could want," comments Michael.

Speech Pathologists assess and treat people who have swallowing or communication difficulties, including problems with speech or understanding language. With one in seven Australian's suffering from a communications disorders it's no surprise that there is a national skills shortage of qualified speech pathologists, particularly in rural and remote areas.

The University of Sydney, Faculty of Health Sciences offers a two-year master's program in speech language pathology and encourages applications from students from a range of backgrounds including arts, science and education.

While the course is fast-paced Michael thinks it is worth it, in particular finding the clinical practice in a variety of settings invaluable and rewarding.

"I love that every day of my job is different, challenging and fast-paced", he said.