St Vincent’s Everyday Hero – Penny Chapman

Penny has worked at St Vincent’s Hospital since 2001. In that time, she has treated thousands of patients with communication and swallowing difficulties. Penny’s area of specialty is head and neck cancer. She has been a strong advocate for patients diagnosed with head and neck cancer working to improve their speech and swallowing outcomes. She is a passionate clinician who is well respected by her colleagues and loved by her patients.

Penny goes about her clinical work each day, supporting patients who are about to undergo surgery and lose their ability to eat, drink and talk. Each and every patient is treated with respect and compassion. One recent example involved a patient from Tasmania who had undergone a laryngectomy.

Due to different funding arrangements across the states, this patient was not eligible for a servox (an electric larynx to help him speak). He was on a pension and could not afford to buy one. So Penny spoke to the Good Samaritan Fund and filled out an application and the application was successful. This meant that SVHM could purchase a servox for this patient and he was able to communicate using a servox once he left St Vincent’s.

Penny is also widely respected by her speech pathology peers. She was pivotal in introducing FEES (Fibreoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing) to St Vincent’s 10 years ago and then expanding it to the inpatient wards through a DHHS grant.

She has trained speech pathologists in FEES, laryngectomy and tracheostomy management and provided mentoring to speech pathologists across Victoria working with patients who have had a laryngectomy. This has meant that where possible, patients can be treated at their local hospital rather than sometimes having to make a two, 4 or 6+ hour round trip to come to St Vincent’s.

During Speech Pathology week in 2015, 2 patients posted these comments on the SVHM facebook page:

“The best speech pathologist in the country – especially Penny”

“Penny is amazing! Don’t know what we’d do without her”

After 20 years working as a speech pathologist – with the same dedication, enthusiasm, passion and compassion – is what makes Penny a St Vincent’s everyday hero.

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