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Rocky Mountain University: Speech-language student’s mission is to improve care in India

By Rachel Richards - Special to the Daily Herald | Apr 27, 2024
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Greeshma Raghavan, of Mysore, India, is in Provo doing her graduate studies at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions.
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Greeshma Raghavan, a student from India, is studying speech-language pathology at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in Provo with the hope of eventually using her education here to educate and empower speech-language professionals in her home country.

Greeshma Raghavan knew exactly what she was looking for when she began researching graduate speech-language pathology programs. After her father suffered complications from a brain tumor, Raghavan saw firsthand the need for health care professionals trained in medical speech-language pathology techniques in her home country of India.

While searching for programs worldwide, she came across Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (RMU) in Provo.

Humble beginnings in India

Raghavan’s life began amid humble circumstances in the city of Mysore, nestled in southern India. Born into a family with limited means, she witnessed her parents navigate the challenges of financial instability. Her father started a restaurant business with a meager sum of 350 Indian rupees (equivalent to $2 to $3).

Despite the odds, her parents persevered, driven by an unwavering determination to provide Raghavan and her older brother with a better life. They worked tirelessly, with her father rising before dawn to procure groceries and her mother balancing the demands of household duties and education. Amid the chaos, they instilled in their children the value of education, recognizing it as the key to unlocking a brighter future.

Family tragedy

During her second semester in college, Raghavan’s father was diagnosed with vagus nerve schwannoma, a brain tumor. The family was assured it was not life-threatening, but complications arose.

With her father out of commission, Raghavan’s then-23-year-old brother had to run the family business and manage the finances. However, the medical bills climbed higher and higher as her father’s health did not improve.

Her father experienced seizures, hemorrhages and hematomas. He underwent several surgeries within 23 days. He also required a tracheostomy as a final resort when ventilators were unable to keep him breathing. As he began to recover, his treatment included speech-language pathology to help him with his speech and swallowing post-tracheostomy. This is where Raghavan’s journey to medical speech-language pathology began.

A desire to improve India’s health care

At 18, Raghavan could see the gaps in her father’s treatments with his speech-language pathologist. “We did not see any improvement in him, and the speech pathologist did not see him often,” Raghavan said.

With physical therapy, her father’s mobility improved, but swallowing and speaking were still difficult. Raghavan worked with an aunt to find her father a better hospital, one that was connected to her college. This meant that Raghavan’s professors were working professionals, and she could work with them to improve her father’s treatment. Soon, he was swallowing again, and now he can drink and eat with few complications.

During her internships, Raghavan had several clinical placements in different settings, including ear, nose and throat, neurology, psychology and more, but she saw a gap in her education.

“I asked, ‘Can’t we get trained on the instrumental evaluations for swallowing?'” she said.

There was too much disconnect between health care professionals regarding treatment versus rehabilitation.

“Back in India … they consistently don’t use the current evidence-based practices,” she said. “So I started researching universities in the U.S.”

Enter Rocky Mountain University.

During her research of programs around the world, she was impressed with what RMU offered, including patient simulations, computerized speech lab validation, endoscopy, stroboscopy, clinical swallow evaluations, videofluoroscopy and more.

Life in Provo

After the grueling application process, Raghavan packed up, said goodbye to her family and moved to Utah to begin her studies. It hasn’t been easy. Her family is working back home to help fund her time here.

“They are such great supporters,” she said. “My parents and brother always said, ‘Walk in the light of righteousness, and you shall find fulfillment that endures through time.'”

She also feels a little like an outlier, opting not to wear her bindi (a colored dot worn in the center of the forehead) and having difficulty finding her favorite foods. When she came home from India this past December, her suitcase was full of grocery items. Another struggle has been transportation. Completely reliant on public transportation, Raghavan can find it difficult to get around, especially on Sundays.

Despite these challenges, she has maintained a positive attitude and made the best of her time with her new friends from her classes. Going on Costco runs, checking out cafes and politely declining ski invites have helped her adjust to life in Provo. Her favorite restaurant so far? Bombay House on University Avenue.

When she’s not in class, studying or with friends, she often practices Indian singing and dancing in her apartment, a talent she doesn’t want to get rusty.

The future dream

“My dream is to set up a rehabilitation center in India and to train different individuals for speech and hearing science,” she said.

Raghavan envisions opening up her own center with a training program that will allow her to collaborate with U.S. professionals and host training that will empower and educate speech-language professionals in India.

“We are dealing with the humans who have life,” she said. “So it is our duty to do our best, give our best, and deliver our service respectfully and responsibly.”

Rachel Richards is the director of communications with University Marketing and Communications at RMU.


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