Local Speech Therapist Receives Advanced Certification for Treating Swallowing Disorders

February 8, 2016

Cheyenne, WY—A speech therapist at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center (CRMC) recently became board certified in swallowing and swallowing disorders, making her the only therapist in Wyoming with this certification.

Melissa Denker was certified by the American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders last month. Denker is the lead therapist for CRMC’s acute rehabilitation unit (ARU) and has been a speech therapist for 11 years, six of those at CRMC.

The certification required that Denker provide at least 350 hours of swallowing treatments and evaluations to patients each year from 2013 through 2015. She was also required to take at least 75 hours of continuing education during that time, had to mentor or train others and had to pass a comprehensive written exam.

“It’s a rigorous process but that’s really a positive,” Denker said. “It shows that the clinician has advanced training, and its reassures patients that they are receiving the best possible care.”

Denker said that board certification also shows CRMC’s commitment to its patients and employees.

“Cheyenne Regional Medical Center offers educational assistance to employees who want to work toward getting degrees or advanced certifications,” Denker said. “Knowing that many clinicians here are board certified is a big plus for our community and the people we serve.”

Swallowing disorders, also known as dysphagia, primarily affect patients who’ve suffered strokes or have head injuries. Dysphagia can also impact patients with other neurological conditions, including Parkinson’s disease.

At CRMC, about five to 10 patients are treated each day for swallowing disorders, Denker said.

Denker is one of only 11 therapists with this certification in a six-state region that includes Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota and Utah.

“Melissa is a key member of the therapy team and has made the strongest impact towards positive outcomes on complicated neurological patients in our acute rehabilitation unit,” said Dr. Prabhu Emmady, a clinical neurophysiologist and medical director of CRMC’s ARU. “She is an asset to our organization, a strong advocate for patients and their families and, most importantly, is a very valuable team member.”