The prevalence and impact of dysphagia over the last 10 years has been striking and it would be naive to think that this evolution will change. In the coming decennia the impact of dysphagia will continue to grow, partially due to the increasing aging population and increasing medical survival rates. Swallowing is regulated by different body systems such as the brain, ear-nose-throat, breathing and digestion. Therefore, the risk that one or more of these systems are affected in case of dysphagia, is high. Therefore, the knowledge across these different domains is key to clinical care of dysphagia and is nowadays too often spread across individual professions. The overarching professional discipline bridging these different skills is deglutology, the science and clinical care of swallowing. Despite the urgent need for integrated academic training in the field of deglutology, unified transdisciplinary education was lacking.

Therefore, pioneering an advanced Master of Science in Deglutology program is timely. The KU Leuven deglutology programme meets an urgent clinical need as society will be increasingly confronted with patients with dysphagia and it answers a range of unmet requests from students, clinicians, researchers as well as from the broad professional medical education field. It is our vision that the care for dysphagia patients needs to be performed in a safe and professional way by professionals who have in-depth knowledge and skills through specialised academic education. Given the strong need, an Advanced Master’s programme builds and provides the much-needed academic foundations to deliver competent graduates able to cope with this complex care of patients who are unable to eat or drink properly, now and in the future. 

Dysphagia scientific research also had an exponential growth in recent years, inherently generating an increased interest in developing professional insight and skills to perform competitive scientific research and writing. 

The Master of Science in Deglutology at KU Leuven Faculty of Medicine pioneers an academic degree in the science of swallowing, which is unique, not only in Europe but across the world. The program targets Masters in Medicine or Dentistry or candidates who obtained a health-related Master’s degree such as Speech Pathology, Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy. The programme is developed as an Advanced Master’s level and clearly differentiates from an initial Master’s programme where the topic of dysphagia is merely one of many pathologies with dedicated training time. The deglutology programme distinguishes itself in terms of advanced and in-depth theoretical knowledge, skills training in instrumental diagnostic procedures and extensive clinical training in dysphagia related to both oropharynx as well as the oesophagus.

In September 2021, the Master of Science in Deglutology will start its fifth academic year. The programme has been awarded the formal European Union accreditation after evaluation by an international accreditation body steered by the Ministry of Education in Belgium. The programme received an excellent review and was complemented for its quality, relevance and future importance.

Selected students will enjoy a one-year interdisciplinary programme in the vibrant city of Leuven, Belgium. Courses of this one-year master’s programme will start at the end of September, are taught in English and are scheduled on Mondays, Tuesdays and occasionally during the evening. Interdisciplinary clinical electives are organised in the JCI accredited University Hospitals in Leuven, Belgium, and are tailored to the needs of the students to the largest extent possible. Deadlines for applications are 1 March for non-EEA applicants and 1 June for EEA applicants and non-EEA applicants living in Belgium with a residence permit. Given current COVID-19 circumstances, our Admissions office can agree to a flexible deadline. However, we advise participants who require a residence permit (mainly participants from outside the European Economic Area) to apply for their permit approximately three months in advance of the start of the academic year meaning the end of June. The end of June is also the KUL payment deadline.

Details about the programme are available on the website www.deglutology.com.

For questions about the content or structure of the programme, please contact deglutology@kuleuven.be.

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Nathalie Rommel, MSc, SLP, PhD
Professor Nathalie Rommel is currently program director of the Master of Science in Deglutology at the Faculty of Medicine and a principal investigator in department of Neurosciences, Experimental ORL in collaboration with the Translational Research Center for Gastrointestinal Disorders (TARGID), University of Leuven, Belgium. Professor Rommel’s (MSc SLP, PhD) clinical research lies in the domain of upper gastrointestinal disorders and dysphagia. Her main topics of research are pathophysiology of pharyngo-esophageal dysphagia and the development of novel diagnostic catheter based methods such as manometry-impedance measurements. Rommel’s research focuses on the analysis and clinical use of these novel methodologies to characterize the (patho-) physiology of upper gastrointestinal function and on the evaluation of current treatments for upper gastrointestinal motility disorders. Dr Rommel’s clinical work in Deglutology concentrates on the diagnosis of patients across life span with pharyngeal and esophageal dysphagia seen at the multidisciplinary dysphagia clinic and neurogastroenterology clinic in the University Hospitals in Leuven. In February 2020, she became President of European Society for Swallowing Disorders (ESSD).

1 COMMENT

  1. What a fabulous idea!!!
    As a newer practicing clinician, I have been searching out and attending every dysphagia course I can work into my full time work schedule. Over the course of 6 years, many many weekends and days off have been spent away from my family attending seminars and dysphagia focused conferences, and while I’ve learned a lot of good information, there are missing “chunks” and I’ve found it virtually impossible to get a cohesive, complete picture from CPG to LES.
    I would absolutely LOVE to attend something like this but there is no way I could afford a year off work and ask my family to make that sacrifice.
    We need something like this here, in the US, which like some PhD programs, is a combination of virtual classes and several times a year, on campus study. Something that is for the PRACTICING clinician, with an emphasis on training top level clinicians interested in advancing and improving care in our field, rather than moving out and into academia. New York Medical College recently added an advanced certificate in pediatric dysphagia, which is a wonderful start. However, it’s aim is to fill the huge gap in our basic SLP Masters education, and educate the new clinician interested in this field, or those looking to change their focus. But for someone like myself, with lots of hands on experience and a plethora of Con Ed, it’s content is not advanced enough.
    With all the discussion on ASHA SIG 13 about the need for this higher level of education/training, I would love to see a University step up and offer a similar program to the one described here, that is focused on working with and training those of us whose interest is clinical practice, and advancing the level of dysphagia care for our complex patients.

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