“I am grateful to Adelphi that their teachers taught me to seek happiness in my profession—not by telling me that verbally, but by showing that excitement through their actions."
Louisa Ferrara ’06, M.S. ’08, Ph.D. ’18, describes herself as an “Adelphi lifer.”
With her doctoral degree, awarded May 2018, to add to her undergraduate and graduate degrees—all earned at Adelphi—the director of the NYU Winthrop Hospital Pediatric Feeding and Swallowing Program has certainly booked time hitting the books at Adelphi.
She recently defended her dissertation on “Cold Liquids Fed to Preterm Infants: Efficacy and Safety.”
The key to her success in education and in her occupation has been, to no small degree, knowing what she wants. Dr. Ferrara tailored her classes at Adelphi to meet her interests and, after receiving her master’s degree, with her goals more focused, she pursued a rarified specialty and made it her career.
“The professors in my department all had varying specialties, but they all had passion for their specialties,” she said. “When I was working at the speech and language clinic just after graduating with my graduate degree, I quickly realized that speech and language wasn’t my passion.
“Using my professors as my model, I wanted to find something that brought me true joy—like Dr. [Susan] Lederer, whose passion is early language acquisition, or Dr. [Florence] Myers’ passion for stuttering. Everyone had something. It was just a matter of finding mine. Thankfully, I quickly realized that pediatric feeding and swallowing disorders was my passion, and have been in love ever since.”
She added, “I am grateful to Adelphi that their teachers taught me to seek happiness in my profession—not by telling me that verbally, but by showing that excitement through their actions.”
An initial interest in speech-language pathology led her to study “everything from the collarbone up.” She received her master’s degree in December 2017 and started a job in January. But “by May, I got bored,” she said. “It wasn’t stimulating enough for me.”
She then looked into different areas of specialty but when she started reading up on feeding she knew she’d found her niche. In the first year after graduating, she earned 80 more credits through online courses and continuing education seminars and found a new job. She also developed a strategy to get her where she wanted to be.
Every three to four months, she called Winthrop Hospital to ask about jobs and to ask if there was any further reading or training she should know about. One day she called and there was an opening.
“I had the knowledge base and persistence. I was kind of like a nice stalker, and that’s how I got in the door,” she said.
Dr. Ferrara took over the program in 2012 and, since then, has increased staff while pursuing her doctoral degree at Adelphi. Her professors have been “all so open to allowing me to always change the projects, to allow me some relevance to my specialty,” she said. “They were all willing to let me adapt the courses to how it would help me and my learning.”
On top of everything else, Dr. Ferrara has, since 2011, been supervising graduate students in internships at the hospital, many from Adelphi. And she hopes to return to the University in the future to teach while continuing her practice.
“I’m very tied to Adelphi,” she said. “My grandma was at one time the oldest person who ever graduated from Adelphi. My mother, my sisters—we all went to Adelphi. It’s what I do.”
Fran Redstone, Ph.D., said, “As the chair of Louisa’s doctorate program, I am proud of her important research agenda which will impact the development of compromised infants who begin their lives in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU). She has already enhanced the safe feeding options available to these infants, and I look forward to seeing her impressive research in the future.”
Reem Khamis-Dakwar, Ph.D., CSD department chair at Adelphi, pointed out that the CSD Ph.D. program “is different than many other programs in allowing a part-time option so students like Louisa, who want to maintain their clinical position, can complete doctoral studies. Most CSD programs are shifting to only full-time, fully funded programs, which means students will not be working as SLPs.” Dr. Khamis-Dakwar added, “We maintained a part-time option in our program, which includes training in pedagogy and clinical supervision because we find these opportunities critical for bridging the research-to-practice gap.”
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