Speech therapist helps young people to find their voice

A speech therapist has returned to university after more than three decades to drive research to help her patients

Julie Davies in her graduation cap and gown

Julie Davies is now embarking on a Professional Doctorate to continue her research

I am a living example that it is never too late to chase your dreams, to seek knowledge, and to make a difference.

Julie Davies, MSc Health Psychology

Julie Davies, 54, from Stockport, has been a speech and language therapist since 1994 and specialises in cleft lip and palate. Throughout this time, she has worked with children and adults born with a cleft, helping them to find their voice and build confidence in their speech.

“I became aware of the continued struggles faced by young people with a visible difference. It was this realisation that more work was needed in this area, and that something needed to change, that inspired me to go back to university at the age of 54 to seek answers and empower these young people to feel happy and confident with their appearance,” Julie explained.

“I wanted to provide support and guidance to these incredible individuals as they navigate a world that sometimes lacks understanding and empathy.”

Julie secured a place on Staffordshire University’s MSc Health Psychology and her dissertation explored what young people with cleft think about their own image.

Julie achieved the best student performance award for her MSc research and has secured £70K funding to support the completion of a Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. This will build on her Masters dissertation and aims to empower young people with cleft to feel happy about their appearance.

The project will involve these young people as co-researchers to help produce a film that can be used as a clinical tool. Staffordshire University is also supporting the project through its Participatory Action Research programme.

This week, Julie delivered a speech to hundreds of fellow graduates and guests during her graduation ceremony at Kings Hall in Stoke.

She said: "I am a living example that it is never too late to chase your dreams, to seek knowledge, and to make a difference.

“My supervisor Dr Amy Burton has really taken it upon herself to understand that I’m not just here to get a doctorate but I’m here to work with the young people and the university has really embraced that as well. Everyone has been so, so supportive. I’ve really loved being here.”

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