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As part of Telehealth Awareness Week, let’s meet CSD grad student Natalie Stigers

By Abigail Condit
CHS Contributor

Over the last year, the healthcare industry has changed dramatically. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of modernizing patient care strategies, as many patients are choosing to — or have to — remain physically distant from medical facilities and their providers.

As a result, University of Kentucky medical practitioners and researchers alike have been met with unique challenges that require them to re-imagine what modern healthcare looks like. For many, this has included implementing telehealth services to deliver high-quality care remotely.

This week, UK’s College of Health Sciences is celebrating Telehealth Awareness Week, which was created and is being promoted by The American Telemedicine Association. Together, CHS and the Association are striving to highlight the advancement of telemedicine as a quality care option in the modern healthcare field.

To help us celebrate the week, CHS is showcasing stories and tips. Here, we’re highlighting UK graduate student Natalie Stigers, who is conducting research in the field of pediatric telemedicine. In essence, she is investigating the best telehealth materials to use to teach children with language impairments.   

Stigers, who is pursuing a graduate degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders, is also doing critical work as a research analyst for the CHS Tele-Certificate Program, which is where she says she discovered her passion for telehealth.

Let’s sit down for five questions with Natalie Stigers, and have her explain the work she’s doing in the program, along with the real-world implications of her research.

Q: What topic are you studying?

A: My topic is to describe the cognitive load of digitally available therapeutic materials touted as beneficial for teaching children with language impairments the semantic meaning of vocabulary.

Q: Why did you choose to study this?

A: (This topic) is important to me because as a novice clinician during the onset of the pandemic, I was overwhelmed by the plethora of free materials that were available and advertised as expanding vocabulary. Furthermore, the burning question in the back of my mind was: In my attempt to keep the child’s attention with interactive features, could I be taking up valuable cognitive load needed for target objectives?

Q: Why is this research important?

A: With Dr. (Joneen) Lowman’s guidance (Lowman, a Ph.D., CCC-SLP, is an Associate Professor in UK’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Project Director for LinKS, and the Director of the Center for Telehealth Education, Research and Outreach) and (CSD undergraduate student) Mackenzie Quirk’s assistance, I’m reviewing clinician-created materials, advertised as increasing vocabulary, and mapping Mayer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning onto digital materials intended for teletherapy use. Based on a descriptive analysis, I will then create a checklist embodying Mayer’s multimedia principles that Speech Language Pathologists can use to guide their selection of free, digital materials for targeting semantic instruction.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about Mayer’s theory in the context of your thesis?

A: Mayer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning describes how individuals learn from pictures and words so that instructional material may be created in a compatible manner leading to deeper learning. Mayer provides us with a checklist of 10 principles involving reducing extraneous information, managing essential processing, and fostering generative processing.

Q: What brought you to UK to study all of this?

A: I came to UK with the desire to work with children with language impairments, but I had very little knowledge of teletherapy until I had the opportunity to work as a research analyst for Dr. Lowman’s Tele-Certificate Program.


BONUS Q: What do you tell others when you hear they may want to dive into Telehealth studies? How do you sell this program?

A: I highly encourage it for anyone who is interested in learning more about telehealth. You will get lots of hands-on experience creating materials that will serve you well in your future practice, collaborate with multidisciplinary peers to think about how to best serve your patients and learn from the expert herself, Dr. Lowman.                                               

Interested in learning more about the incredible work that UK faculty and students are doing in the field of virtual care? Be on the lookout for more telehealth announcements and stories that will be posted on the CHS website and in the media throughout the week.