Kathleen “Katie” Wengel

Name: Kathleen “Katie” Wengel

Personal Interests: Spending quality time with my family. Traveling (my husband and I have visited 27 countries so far!). Eating and trying new foods. Historical non-fiction books are my favorite genre (and the very fictional Harry Potter series). Scrapbooking and making photo albums

Main areas of SLP interest/specialty areas:Dysphagia, total laryngectomy care and helping Veterans with cognitive/communication impairments find success in school. I am a board certified specialist in swallowing and swallowing disorders as recognized by the American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders. 

Why you chose to become a speech pathologist? I initially wanted to do something with the German language, like be a translator, but quickly realized that my sub-par German language skills were no match for the mostly bilingual German-English speaking Germans! I wasn’t cut out to be a registered nurse like my vibrant Mom (nicknamed “Super Nurse!”), but liked the idea of working in the medical field. My best friend, Kristin, was studying Communication Sciences and Disorders and this sounded like the perfect fit: applying my knowledge of language in the healthcare field. I figured my favorite clientele would be patients with aphasia, but my interest actually piqued when it came to the head and neck cancer patient population, especially working with total laryngectomees. I thoroughly enjoy all of the challenges that accompany working with the total laryngectomy patient population, as well as conducting FEES and VFSS exams and interpreting the results of high resolution pharyngeal manometry. I am forever learning and I really enjoy that about the broad field of Speech Pathology!

Most significant SLP accomplishment?  I worked really hard to earn my board certification in swallowing and feel very proud of this achievement as well as being competent in providing complex diagnostic dysphagia evaluations using endoscopy, fluoroscopy and high resolution pharyngeal manometry. My proudest achievement, however, is being a provider who Veterans can trust and feel confident that they are getting the most competent, compassionate and evidenced-based care. I take a lot of pride in serving our nation’s Veterans and thoroughly enjoy really getting to know my patients and their families. I am very invested in the overall wellness, happiness and success of my patients and feel humbled to be a part of Veterans’ healthcare journeys.

Favorite patient story? Having completed my Clinical Fellowship Year at the Washington DC VA Medical Center and now going into my fifth year of serving as a full time Speech-Language Pathologist at the VA Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, I have too many favorite patients and favorite patient stories to recount! One of the greatest joys for me is hearing total laryngectomees successfully use their TEPs for the first time and watching their communication confidence grow as they find success with hands-free TE speech. I enjoy interactions between my patients and their families and really getting to know each Veteran as more than just a patient, but as a person; I am forever humbled when Veterans feel comfortable enough to share with me stories from their time in the service. There are so many health curveballs that life throws at ALL of us, and I strive to be the best possible provider for my patients and their families. My goal is to make my patients feel heard, validated and more in control when it comes to their treatment plan. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better place to do this than at the VA!

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