The UK College of Health Sciences is proud to welcome alumna Kathy Panther, MS, CCC-SLP, into the Health Sciences Alumni Hall of Fame. Panther, a 1976 graduate of the Speech and Hearing program, is the current director of Inpatient Rehabilitation and the Brain Injury Program at the Frazier Rehab Institute in Louisville, part of KentuckyOne Health.
“The College of Health Sciences recognizes Kathy Panther’s outstanding professional record, personal reputation, and 30 years of distinguished service in and contributions to the field,” said Scott M. Lephart, PhD, Dean of the College of Health Sciences. “Her work is innovative and impactful, and we are proud to be her alma mater.”
While at KentuckyOne Health-Frazier, Panther and colleagues designed, developed, and were the first speech-language pathologists in the U.S. to implement the Free Water Protocol, a practice, which improves the quality of life for patients with dysphagia by ensuring necessary hydration, along with airway protection. Panther identifies her patients as the motivation behind the Free Water Protocol.
“Listen to your patients and their families. Listen with an open mind and an open heart,” Panther, who received her Master of Science in Communication Disorders from UofL, said. “We changed our practice, which ultimately led to practice change for many clinicians practicing in settings across the world. Positive change came about when we learned to listen [to our patients].”
Panther and team have, since 1984, both successfully managed thousands of patients with her program and instructed other health care professionals on using the protocol in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and long-term care facilities. Her Free Water Protocol and subsequent research, which has been published with ASHA Special Interest 13: Perspectives on Swallow and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia), as well as the Advanced Healthcare Network for Speech and Hearing, advances the entire field of speech-language pathology.
Panther’s additional services to the field have made national impacts as well. She is a prominent national presenter of accredited continuing education seminars and has served on American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) clinical supervision committees that work toward establishing more formal and consistent training programs for all speech-language pathologists within the health care environment.
Furthermore, Panther maintains strong connections to the Commonwealth and the University of Kentucky. At the state level, she has held multiple positions on the Board for the Parkinson Support Center of Kentuckiana. Among those positions, Panther has served as president and vice president. She was also appointed to a four-year term on the Kentucky Traumatic Brain Injury Trust Fund Board in 2014 by then Kentucky Governor Steve Brashear. At UK, Panther took an active role with the CHS Dean’s Advisory Board, under the leadership of former Dean, Dr. Lori Gonzalez, participating on committees to increase alumni participation, as well as committees aiming to increase awareness of the College.
In addition to her administration service with CHS, Panther’s team helps train the College’s Communication Sciences and Disorders students at KentuckyOne Health-Frazier Rehabilitation facilities.
“Over the years, many of our students have requested and received clinical training at all Frazier locations, and the students’ reports are overwhelmingly positive,” said Donna Morris, MA, CCC-SLP, Associate Professor, Division of Communication Science and Disorders. “Because of Mrs. Panther’s great knowledge and interest in the supervision of students, we are extremely fortunate that she maintains an active role in developing educational opportunities at their sites.”
Panther has twice been awarded the Clinical Achievement Award from the Kentucky Speech-language Hearing Association and was a national nominee from Kentucky for the Di Carlo Award, presented by ASHA for her outstanding clinical work in speech-language pathology.