On April 10, the College of Health and Human Services will host the 2015 Community Heroes Awards to recognize the unsung heroes in our community whose actions, thoughts and words have had a transformative power in our region. Our heroes, who represent each of the seven departments and four centers within our college, put others before themselves to genuinely make a difference for the residents of our region. All month long, we will be highlighting our 11 honorees in our Community Heroes Series.

_R2G4736Name: Brenna Hughes

Occupation: Speech-Language Pathologist at Community Regional Medical Center

Nominated By: Central California Sports Sciences Institute

Each year, children of all ages in the Central Valley experience a concussion from playing some type of sport. Some children are diagnosed, while others go untreated, as signs of concussion are sometimes unrecognizable until weeks later. Being able to find a solution to this growing problem affecting young athletes all over the region is something that Speech-Language Pathologist Brenna Hughes is most passionate about.

Through her professional practice and personal interest, she recognized a need for Fresno to have a coordinated plan addressing the management of sports-related concussions. This led to her spearheading the development of the Central Valley Concussion Consortium in 2013 to improve appropriate resources for pediatric concussion patients in the region.

Later that same year, Hughes played a substantial role in organizing the first-ever Central Valley Concussion Symposium which focused on brain injury education and awareness, with an emphasis on youth sports. The symposium seeks to increase concussion awareness and education for young athletes, parents, teachers, coaches and medical professionals.

Hughes took a multidisciplinary approach to the problem by bringing in various specialties from neuropsychology, neurology, speech-language pathology, physical therapy, athletic training, general practice physicians, emergency department physicians, nursing, as well as members of the local athletic community. Nearly 200 practitioners attended the inaugural symposium.

Since 2012, Hughes has led a team of 15 speech-language pathologists in the Acute Care Rehabilitation Department at Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno. The team assesses and rehabilitates adult and pediatric patients with cognitive-communicative, voice, and swallowing disorders. Her expertise in this area helps her in her quest to provide education on mild traumatic injury and concussions in youth.

Hughes is credited with developing the stroke swallow screening tool now being implemented hospital-wide, to meet Joint Commission requirements to become a stroke center of excellence. She even developed a traumatic brain injury screening program in 2009, which has led to her department screening and/or evaluating 95 to 100 percent of admitted trauma patients who meet mild traumatic brain injury criteria.

In addition to her work with the Concussion Consortium, Hughes has also served on the Pediatric Trauma Audit Committee at Community Regional, the Sports Injury Prevention Committee at Valley Children’s Hospital and collaborated with the Wells Fargo Play It Safe Program to advocate for best practices in concussion management.

Sharing her professional expertise and knowledge is something Hughes strives for, having guest lectured on the topic of mild traumatic brain injury at Fresno State, Community Medical Centers’ Health Quest educational series and for the California Speech-Language & Hearing Association Hot Topics dinner series at Valley Children’s.

Hughes graduated from San Diego State University (SDSU) in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in Communicative Disorders. After graduating from SDSU, she moved to Spain and taught English for about a year, becoming fluent in Spanish and traveling around Europe. Following that, she moved closer to home to Merced and started graduate school at Fresno State, where she obtained her master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology in 2006.

The extraordinary effort and foresight Hughes brings to the table, coupled with her passion for educating others on concussion management, is what truly makes her a Community Hero.

The 2015 Community Heroes Awards will be held on April 10, 2015 at Fresno State. For more information on the event, contact Beth Wilkinson at 559.278.3603 or bwilkinson@csufresno.edu or click here.