Researcher Spotlight Series: Dr. Karen Hegland

By Katarina Fiorentino Klatzkow

The ideas that propel health forward. They’re launching from PHHP. 

At the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions, researchers are accelerating solutions to improve health for individuals and communities across the globe.  

Karen Hegland, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, associate professor in the department of speech, language and hearing sciences and the director of the master’s degree program in communication sciences and disorders, is advancing research for patients with Parkinson’s disease. She is the director of the Upper Airway Dysfunction Lab at the Norman Fixel Institute of Neurological Diseases, where she conducts cutting-edge research on swallowing and upper airway disorders that result from neurodegenerative conditions. Hegland is the recipient of two new grants, including an award from the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, to address health disparities in deep brain stimulation treatment among Black patients with Parkinson’s disease.  

Hegland’s research achievements have contributed to the College of Public Health and Health Professions’ recent milestone in research funding, with $54.8 million in research grants and awards in fiscal year 2022-2023, a 23% increase in funding from the previous year.   

Hegland explains the impact of airway protection for individuals with Parkinson’s, as well as how her research aims to help people with swallowing and cough disorders maintain eating, drinking and speech function, which are critical for patients’ health and quality of life.  

Video produced by Shena Hays and Hillary Carter.