Joseph Stemple, PhD, CCC-SLP, ASHAF-Honors, professor in the communication sciences and disorders (CSD) and rehabilitation sciences programs, is retiring in July after 15 years of service with the UK College of Health Sciences. Stemple is an American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Fellow and Honors recipient (the association’s highest honors) and has made significant contributions to the CSD field as an expert on voice disorders and laryngeal and speech dynamics.
Stemple received his PhD from the University of Cincinnati in 1977. He joined the College of Health Sciences in 2005 following a 30-year clinical career as founder and director of the Blaine Block Institute for Voice Analysis and Rehabilitation in Dayton, OH, and the Professional Voice Center of Greater Cincinnati. He used these clinical and administrative skills to guide the development of UK's Voice and Swallow Clinic and transition into academia.
Stemple has known since high school he wanted to pursue a career in CSD. “I loved musical theatre and was amazed at the talent of opera singers,” he said. “I also knew that voice disorders were more common than many may believe. My first job was as a clinical doctoral fellow at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center treating cancer patients who lost their voice boxes or tongues.”
When the College of Health Sciences assessed Stemple’s interest in an academic appointment, he was ready for the challenge. “After 30 years in clinical practice, I made the decision that I needed a new challenge,” he said. “I had participated in many clinical research projects and taught extensively as adjunct faculty. The transition to academia was exactly what I needed at the time and CHS at UK was the perfect location.”
For Stemple, investigating voice disorders involves understanding the physical skill and emotional connection required to perform an operatic aria. “To treat voice disorders you need an innate knowledge of biology and anatomy and physiology, along with a deep empathy, understanding, and awareness of what the patient is going through,” he said. “This complexity opens the possibility for many areas of exploration. There is still much to be done!”
Stemple’s academic career has been extremely rewarding. He has published more than 70 journal articles, written multiple textbooks, and spoken at meetings and conferences around the world.
His most cherished memories, though, are centered around students who passed through his classroom and lab. “I love mentoring our doctoral students,” he said. “I will miss these relationships the most. Students become like your own children. I love to see them succeed and do great things.”
"If I had the chance to switch from clinical work to academia again I would do it in a heartbeat,” Stemple said. “It has been a pleasure to work at CHS. I have become friends with many of my students and colleagues and will miss them tremendously.”
During retirement, Stemple plans to travel with his wife Terri and reignite his passion for equestrian sports. He and his family will also move into their lake house in Tennessee. “I have found a strong and active equine therapy practice near our home north of Knoxville,” he said. “I used to compete at the training level in three-day eventing and am looking forward to combining my knowledge of horses with my therapy skills.”
He leaves his students with these parting words. “Never stop learning. Always look for new opportunities in the field to advance knowledge in ways that will improve the lives of others.”