Getting to Know: ACC President Dr. Donna Polelle, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

How long have you been with the ACC? Since it’s very beginning!

In October 2017, several of us started a conversation envisioning an organization to meet the needs of people with aphasia in Sarasota and their co-survivors. Focused groups involving our entire local aphasia community followed in early 2018. The Aphasia Community Center, Inc. (ACC) was established as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization on October 17, 2018. We have grown, thanks to a very dedicated board, hard-working volunteers, and fabulous friends with aphasia and their co-survivors.

What is your background? My professional career as a speech-language pathologist (SLP) spans over 20 years working in medical settings including an acute care hospital. A rehabilitation hospital, skilled nursing facilities, and home care. I developed management and leadership skills as a department manager and through service to the Florida Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists. Interested in learning more about aphasia, reading, and the brain, I pursued a Ph.D. program and completed research involving acquired reading disorders (a.k.a. alexia) in people with aphasia. In 2011, I joined the faculty at the University of South Florida teaching undergraduate and graduate students about aphasia and other adult communication disorders.

What brought you to pursue speech-language pathology? My love of science and English sparked an interest in the field. I observed a speech-language pathologist at the hospital across from my high school in Chicago and I knew language pathology was the career for me.

What piece of advice would you offer to people with aphasia? Being an active member of an aphasia community can transform you after a stroke. The encouragement and support provided by peers and group facilitators can help you persevere to communicate successfully and live a satisfying life after the onset of aphasia.

What is your biggest accomplishment in the last year? I am so very proud to be a part of our ACC team as we prepared for the 2024 Giving Challenge. There is much work to do before and during the 24-hour Giving Challenge and it’s a group effort involving the ACC board of directors, volunteers, our friends with aphasia, co-survivors, and donors supporting our mission and work. We exceeded our goal and raised nearly $28,000 thanks to the generosity of the many donors.

What is your favorite thing to do? Spend time with family. I also love to travel.

What is your favorite thing to read about? I am a self-proclaimed “brain geek” and love to read anything and everything about the human brain.

Do you have any kids? Yes, a son in the Chicago area and a daughter in North Port. Grandkids? My husband and I have 8 grandchildren and 2 great-granddaughters.

Do you have any pets? Not at this time, but I have many dear furry friends and furry family including Browni, Zelda, Fly, and Truman.

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Vanilla with chocolate chunks and caramel swirl

Where is your favorite place to spend time? The Ringling Museum and walking on Lido Beach

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself? I love welcoming new members to our aphasia community and speaking to groups about the wonderful ACC classes and events.

The Aphasia Community Center, Inc. Is honored to have someone with these credentials and knowledge in a leadership role. By sharing similar goals and ideologies, Dr. Polelle and the Aphasia Community Center, Inc. have made many successful efforts to reach out and connect to our local community through education, support, and advocacy.