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Lecture series on genetics and communication disorders

Oct. 9, 2009

KALAMAZOO--Presentations by four accomplished geneticists and researchers will shed light on connections between genetics and communication disorders during the 27th Annual Van Riper Lectures on Thursday and Friday, Oct. 15-16, at Western Michigan University.

The conference runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday at the Fetzer Center. The speakers will discuss cutting-edge research and clinical applications of genetic assessment in the areas of hearing loss, speech-sound disorders, language delay and disorders and fluency disorders.

2009 Van Riper Lecturers

  • Dr. Nancy Cox, professor and section chief of genetic medicine at the University of Chicago. Cox is a quantitative human geneticist with an interest in developing methods to identify and characterize the genetic risk factors for complex human disorders. Although she engages in funded research to develop methods and identify genetic risk factors for such complex phenotypes as type 1 and type 2 diabetes, diabetic complications, asthma, Tourette Syndrome, autism, mesothelioma, breast cancer and pharmacogenetics, she has been looking for genes for stuttering for more than 30 years. In addition to her own research program, Cox leads University of Chicago Department of Medicine efforts in large-scale genetic and genomics studies and in developing programs for translation of genetics/genomics discoveries into clinical practice.

  • Dr. Lawrence Shriberg, research professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he is principal investigator for the Phonology Project and co-director of the Phonology Clinic. Shriberg's principal research interests focus on genetic and other origins of pediatric speech sound disorders, including studies to identify diagnostic markers for clinical subtypes and studies to develop sub-type-specific treatment. A major focus of this research is on the genetic origins and lifespan description of childhood apraxia of speech in neurological, neurodevelopmental and idiopathic contexts.

  • Dr. Helga Toriello, director of clinical genetics at Spectrum Health Hospitals in Grand Rapids, Mich., and a professor in the department of Pediatrics/Human Development at Michigan State University. Toriello has published more than 80 articles on genetics and dysmorphology, as well as contributed chapters to several books and served as co-author of "Hereditary Hearing Loss and its Syndromes" published by Oxford University Press. She serves on the editorial boards of three journals and several committees of the American College of Medical Genetics.

  • Dr. J. Bruce Tomblin, the D.C. Spriestersbach Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Iowa. He has conducted several federally funded research projects concerned with the causes, course and long-term academic and social outcomes of children with developmental language disorders and hearing loss and children with cochlear implants. His research on causes of language disorders has focused on understanding the genetic bases of language impairment and the cognitive mechanisms serving language development. Molecular genetics is currently at the forefront of Tomblin's research.

The Van Riper Lectures are named in honor of the late Dr. Charles G. Van Riper, who was instrumental in establishing WMU's Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, which presents the annual conference along with Psi Iota Xi and the College of Health and Human Services.


Individual lectures are free and open to the public. Registration for the full conference is $175 for individuals or $125 per person for groups of five or more with the same organization. Full registration for WMU students, faculty and clinical supervisors is $25. To receive ASHA Continuing Education Units, add $5 to your registration fee.

For more information about registration and accommodations, visit the Van Riper Lecture Series online. Questions should be directed to Paula Armstrong at paula.armstrong@wmich.edu.

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Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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