Sara Ramsey, a senior at Ball State University from Fishers, has spent the semester testing new beverages for patients diagnosed with dysphagia, the medical term for those who have difficulty swallowing. According to the International Dysphagia Diet Standardization Initiative, approximately 590 million people live with dysphagia.
Along with 12 other students and faculty mentor Mary Ewing, Ramsey mixes beverages with thickeners to create different consistencies. The beverages are then sent to the community partners for the project, Meridian Health Services in Muncie and St. Vincent Hospital and Health Services in Indianapolis, to be tested by dysphagia patients. At the end of the semester, the community partners will travel to Ball State, where the class will present its research and findings from the project.
“It’s really nice not just being able to actually learn about these things, but to know that it is actually making a contribution,” Ramsey said. “Ball State is a very hands-on school, so the fact that we aren’t just learning about it, but actually are experiencing it and mixing (the beverages), it’s incredible to be able to get that experience early on.”
Ramsey is majoring in speech pathology with a minor in autism spectrum disorders. After she graduates, she plans to pursue a master’s degree and work as a speech therapist for adults who have suffered from strokes, brain injuries and neurodegenerative diseases, which can all cause dysphagia.
“I already know that with my future career goals and plans that I will be getting a lot of patients with dysphagia,” Ramsey said. “It’s really great actually getting experience doing this, knowing that I’m going to need it in my future.”