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2017 Gold Medalist



Dr. Barbara Sonies graduated with a BA from the University of Minnesota with Honors and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. She then was awarded a full scholarship for her Master’s Degree studies in Speech-Language Pathology at Stanford University. After several years in the California Schools, she worked at the University of Minnesota Hospital’s Department of Rehabilitation Medicine as Chief of Speech Language Pathology until 1972. In 1973, she was employed at the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) in Bethesda, Maryland. In 1981, she was awarded a PhD from the University of Maryland’s Hearing and Speech Sciences Department. She has taught numerous graduate courses and seminars on diagnosis and treatment of dysphagia at the University of Maryland and George Washington University. 

Dr. Sonies was the Chief of the Speech Language Pathology Section, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Chief of the Oral Motor Function Section, and Director of the Ultrasound Oral Imaging Laboratory at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland until 2006. She was Research Professor at the University of Maryland Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences until 2015 and is currently Professor Emeritus. She serves on the National Academies of Medicine, Standing Committee of Medical Experts to Assist Social Security on Disability Issues, and is a section editor for dysphagia topics for the Archives of Rehabilitation Medicine.

Swallowing and swallowing disorders have been the main focus of her clinical and research career for over three decades. Dr. Sonies has been a clinician and investigator in the field of dysphagia with primary focus on swallowing in aging, post-polio, myositis, cystinosis, progressive supranuclear palsy, and other neurologic and systemic conditions. She originated the use of ultrasound to image the oral cavity for speech and swallowing and has conducted research on various neurologic, neuromotor and systemic conditions that impact swallowing function.

In 1985, she organized the first multidisciplinary conference on dysphagia cooperatively with the NIH and ASHA. She has chaired and presented at hundreds of meetings, conferences, seminars, and workshops on swallowing and swallowing disorders both nationally and internationally.

She founded the American Speech Language Hearing Association’s Dysphagia Special Interest Division and developed the original plan for Board Specialty Recognition/Certification in Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders. Dr. Sonies has Specialty Certification in Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders, was Secretary of the Specialty Board and continues to serve on the Applications Committee. She was awarded both Fellow and Honors of ASHA and Fellow of the Maryland Speech Language Hearing Society. She is a founder of the Dysphagia Research Society, DRS Past President (1996), and is an archivist.

She is nationally recognized for her skill in diagnosis and treatment of severe swallowing and oral motor disorders with expertise that ranks her among the few specialists in the United States.



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