Thanks to new funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Temple University College of Public Health’s Eleanor M. Saffran Conference continues its tradition as a unique opportunity for professionals and students from around the world to discuss topics related to the cognitive neuroscience of communication disorders. Starting this year, the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) supports the conference with a grant for up to $40,000 for each of the next five annual conferences.
Founded in 2005, the Saffran Conference is an annual two-day program hosted by the department of communication sciences and disorders. This year’s event took place on Sept. 15 and 16.
On the second day, attendees and researchers discussed to apply new findings to clinical work. Professionals who attend can earn continuing education credits they need to maintain their professional certifications. But it also offers unique opportunities for students and highlights the college’s own research.
“It keeps professionals up-to-date and gives many students their first experience at a professional conference,” said Dr. Nadine Martin, a professor in the communication sciences and disorder department, director of the Aphasia Rehabilitation Research Laboratory in the college, and the co-organizer of the conference with associate professor Dr. James Reilly and instructor Ms. Beth Levine.
The Saffran Conference began thanks to funding from the family of Dr. Eleanor Saffran, who was a member of the department’s faculty and is considered a pioneer in the field of cognitive neuropsychology. Later, grants from the NIH helped it grow — and the new NIDCD grant continues that trajectory.
The funding defrays speaker and registration costs, and allows the conference to continue its tradition of awarding scholarships to up to 16 students each year. This pays their registration fees and travel expenses, and student scholars attend a pre-conference dinner with researchers and present their own work at the conference.
Martin said one goal is to inspire students to consider research along with clinical work. Two current researchers in Martin’s lab, Dr. Jessica Obermeyer and Dr. Irene Minkina, were inspired to work here as postdoctoral fellows after attending the Saffran Conference as student scholars.
“I was really impressed with how it was organized,” said Dr. Minkina, who attended the conference twice before coming to Temple. “The integration of research and clinical application was unique.”
Getting to network with researchers in the field was a big selling point for Dr. Obermeyer.
“You get a chance to really talk to them and get mentorship. That was a really big deal for me because I didn’t know a lot of researchers,” she said.
When it came time for Dr. Obermeyer to consider postdoctoral opportunities, Temple was an obvious choice.
“When you’re producing research and reading other people’s research, you don’t really know the inside story,” she said. After meeting Dr. Martin and others at the Saffran Conference, “I felt like I had much more inside information about what the research was like – what drove this lab and how important clinical application is to the research.”