Will Hula

2005 Research Travel Grant, 2004 New Century Scholars Doctoral Scholarship

It All Starts From Here

Will Hula's 2004 ASHFoundation New Century Scholars Doctoral Scholarship, awarded when he was a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, provided just the boost he needed for his research to begin to take off and pay off. The fact that the grant helped to finance Hula's living expenses was no small thing either. Peace of mind helps when you're doing research.

At the time, Hula was becoming interested in the tests that are used to measure clinical outcomes in aphasia. Although a number of tools existed then, there was still a need for measures that were more reliable, valid, and theoretically sound. These could, Hula hoped, help to build a stronger evidence base to support clinical practice, provide better documentation to third-party payers, and significantly improve quality of life for individuals with aphasia. Hula's work has focused on the application of modern psychometric models to aphasia outcome measures, including the Aphasia Communication Outcome Measure and Burden of Stroke Scale, and has led to publications, successful collaboration with other investigators, and to the firm establishment of his reputation as an original researcher in his field.

The success of Hula's work allowed him to pursue, successfully again, major funding from the Veterans Affairs Research Career Development and Merit Review programs, as well as the NIH. His success has been boosted by multiple awards and opportunities provided by ASHF and ASHA, including a 2005 ASHFoundation Travel Research Grant, participation in the 2014 Clinical Practice Research Institute, and, more recently participation in the 2015 Grant Review and Reviewer Training program. These programs helped him to hone his own grant-writing skills and to create contacts and initiate collaboration with other creative researchers working in the VA and in academia. "The ASHFoundation," he says, "allows such associations to occur. It provides a unique link connecting young, unpublished researchers to the major sources of funding available to published researchers."

Hula, now a speech-language pathologist in the VA Pittsburgh Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center of Excellence and adjunct assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, notes that the ASHFoundation awards are unique in other ways as well: They are virtually the only source of funding for researchers at the earliest stages of their career and, unlike other funding sources like the VA, the ASHFoundation is open to researchers from all over the world. "This opportunity for international teamwork promotes a rich collaboration of ideas among investigators of many national backgrounds who bring their diverse cultural experiences to the work."

Donors to the ASHFoundation, Hula believes, receive their own rewards. "They have the opportunity to contribute directly to the research base that supports their particular field." And recipients are rewarded for life: "Personally, that first funding from the ASHFoundation has led to so many great research ideas that I have a career's worth of initiatives to investigate."


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