From classical performer to speech-language pathologist

By Katarina Fiorentino, B.H.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders ’21

Loïc Adjevi-Neglokpe, a second-year master’s student in communication sciences and disorders in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions. Photos by Jesse S. Jones.

PHHP student carves a unique path in rehabilitation, combining passion for music with a career in health care

Loïc Adjevi-Neglokpe, a Master of Arts in Communication Sciences and Disorders candidate in the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions, never would have imagined a Google search on the mechanisms of voice was going to change his career trajectory and propel him into the profession of speech-language pathology.

As an undergraduate at Jacksonville University, Adjevi-Neglokpe, who is passionate about music, visual artistry and opera singing, majored in classical voice performance. He became interested in learning more about the anatomy and physiology of the voice to improve his technical singing. With encouragement from his classical voice instructor and the director of the communication sciences and disorders program at Jacksonville University, he enrolled in prerequisite courses and completed the bridge program in communication sciences and disorders. Next up: acceptance into the master’s program at the UF PHHP department of speech, language, and hearing sciences.

Loïc Adjevi-Neglokpe played the role of the Wolf in this performance of Seymour Barab’s Little Red Riding Hood.

Throughout his UF graduate studies, Adjevi-Neglokpe has fostered clinical interests in voice and swallowing disorders, all while utilizing his unique background in vocal performance to connect with patients.

“My understanding from a viewpoint as a singer and also as a clinician has allowed me to speak from different perspectives and relate to patients,” said Adjevi-Neglokpe who is now in his final externship with Mayo Clinic Florida in Jacksonville. “My experience and training in artistry has helped me bridge the gap between the recreational or creative use of the voice and the functionality of the voice from a clinical standpoint.”

In addition to his role as a clinician and researcher of the voice, Adjevi-Neglokpe is a lyricist, a stand-up comedian, a musician and an opera singer.

“I love the process of creating,” Adjevi-Neglokpe said. “You have to be able to transition your modes of thought, but I believe there’s a lot of translations between being in a creative realm to that of a clinical one. A good speech-language pathologist can switch hats easily; they know their scope of practice, but also where it bridges with someone else’s. Artists do that and so do great clinicians. They can factor in patient-centered care and use empathy within whatever they’re doing clinically. They can pair logic with emotion. They have knowledge as the basis, and then they add in stylistic choices to better serve patients.”

Adjevi-Neglokpe wrote and performed the song “Love Don’t Fail Me.” Friend and collaborator Marco Tacandong interpreted the song in dance.

Adjevi-Neglokpe has worked on a variety of multi-disciplinary teams during his clinical rotations at UF, most recently in the Aerodigestive Research Core laboratory, led by Emily Plowman, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, a professor of speech, language, and hearing sciences and doctoral program director. He completed a practicum in the cardiac intensive care unit last semester, which involved working closely with cardiothoracic surgeons and patients with vocal fold paralysis.

In addition, Adjevi-Neglokpe was part of a team investigating dysphagia — a disorder characterized by difficulties with swallowing — among patients undergoing surgery.

“We researched the likelihood of dysphagia after heart surgery or any type of procedure where the rib cage is opened,” he said. “We also did respiratory strength training with patients prior to procedures to help reduce the severity of dysphagia post-operation.”

Research speech-language pathologist Kayla Croft and Loïc Adjevi-Neglokpe at the Aerodigestive Research Core, where Adjevi-Neglokpe conducted swallowing research under the mentorship of Dr. Emily Plowman.

For other students considering a clinical career or those who are coming to the world of speech-language pathology from a non-traditional path, Adjevi-Neglokpe recommends leaning into one’s passions and unique knowledge sets to approach the challenge of learning new clinical skills.

“Really nerd out as much as you can,” he suggests. “Take advantage of the not knowing, of being in a new space. Don’t focus on the anxiety of not knowing something, focus on the excitement and delve into that. When you don’t know anything, there is so much opportunity in that, so much potential to really soak things in.”

“When I first got to Gainesville, I did this thing where after every class, I would take a selfie from a self-timer on my car, and it would be me in a goofy pose with a caption that read, ‘Felt cute, might delete later,’” Adjevi-Neglokpe said. “I’d post in on my Instagram story, and I did this over a few months. Over time my cohort members would ask if I posted it, and I started adding them into it, and eventually everyone in my cohort was in one big photo. It was awesome.”