UF dysphagia expert earns national award for mentorship

doctor Plowman
Dr. Emily Plowman

By Todd Taylor

Emily Plowman, Ph.D., was awarded the 2021 Landis Award for Outstanding Mentorship from the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, or NINDS. Nominations for the Landis Award were initiated by current and former trainees.

Plowman, an internationally recognized expert in the field of dysphagia, the medical term for swallowing difficulties, is a University of Florida professor in the departments of neurology, surgery and speech, language, and hearing sciences. A faculty member in the College of Public Health and Health Professions and the College of Medicine, she also established and directs UF’s Aerodigestive Research Core and is the clinical director of UF’s Breathing Research and Therapeutics Center.

“I am humbled and honored to receive this award. Mentoring is unquestionably one of the most challenging yet rewarding roles of my vocation,” Plowman said. “When a student or fellow joins my lab and entrusts their learning in my hands, I see this as a tremendous honor and responsibility and commit to providing a multifaceted, comprehensive learning experience. Through the daily interactions, highs and lows, and inherent intensity of research, a strong mentor/mentee relationship is a close bond that parallels family.”

Plowman was one of eight recipients of the Landis Award, which recognizes faculty members who have shown dedication to superior mentorship and training in neuroscience research.

doctor plowman and her trainees

“By recruiting Emily Plowman five years ago, we could not have done better for our trainees, our center or the patients who will benefit from her research for years to come,” said Dr. Gordon Mitchell, Ph.D., director of UF’s Breathing Research and Therapeutics Center, or UF BREATHE Center. “I’ve witnessed Dr. Plowman guiding her students as they developed talks that would wow the audience. Not only did she advocate for her trainees to give ‘platform talks,’ she spent countless hours helping them develop the concept, flow and media needed to deliver a talk that more often than not resulted in a trainee research award. Beyond research, Emily has mentored students through difficult life situations, both at work and at home. She has stood by them and then made sure they could move on with satisfying careers of their own. As her current trainees will attest, this pattern continues.”

Award winners receive $100,000 in direct costs toward an existing NINDS grant to support efforts to fostering the career advancement of trainees. The annual award is named in honor of former NINDS director Story Landis, Ph.D.

“We congratulate this year’s recipients of the NINDS Landis Award for Outstanding Mentorship. These individuals have all shown a consistently exceptional commitment to mentorship over a period of years, have fostered research environments that promote diversity and welcome diverse perspectives, and an emphasis both as scientists and trainers on conducting experimentally rigorous science,” said Stephen Korn, Ph.D., the director of NINDS’ Office of Training and Workforce Development.

As part of the nomination process, current and former trainees submitted letters to the NINDS highlighting Plowman’s impact on their careers.

“Dr. Plowman is the type of teacher who will gently push you to tap into resources and areas of yourself that you were unaware of or perhaps had limiting self-beliefs about, but ultimately turn into your most valuable tools that allow you realize your own potential. The type of teacher who is protective, but simultaneously refreshingly honest to prepare you for the real world. The type of teacher who places your well-being above the whirlwind that is science. Most importantly, the type of teacher whose passion for science and research is simply infectious!”

-Justine Dallal York, a Ph.D. candidate in UF’s rehabilitation science doctoral program.

“Although Dr. Plowman is a brilliant scientist and empowering female role model, it is her palpable passion for teaching, compassion and unwavering devotion that makes her a truly exceptional mentor. She has unwavering support for her students and trainees and will create learning opportunities that go well beyond what is expected in her role. She truly will move heaven and earth to help her mentees achieve their goals, and for that, I am forever grateful.” 

Lauren DiBiase, a UF speech language pathologist and former clinical fellow.

Read Dr. Plowman’s Landis Award profile.