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Heather Starmer is a Clinical Associate Professor and Director of the Head and Neck Cancer Speech and Swallowing Rehabilitation Center. Prior to joining the faculty at Stanford University, Heather served as the lead of the head and neck cancer rehabilitation program at Johns Hopkins University.Heather graduated from California State University at Long Beach in 1998 with a BA in Communicative Disorders. She earned her MA from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. She completed her fellowship at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Pittsburgh with a focus in head and neck cancer and rehabilitation of swallowing disorders. Heather specializes in the rehabilitation of speech, voice, and swallowing in patients with head and neck cancer. She has particular interest in prevention of communication and swallowing disorders associated with radiation and chemotherapy. She has a strong interest in head and neck cancer survivorship and helping patients to accomplish their personal goals and to optimize their quality of life long term. She is a board certified specialist in swallowing disorders.Heather’s academic goals include improving communication and swallowing outcomes following a diagnosis of head and neck cancer through clinical research. She was a key member of a collaborative research group at Johns Hopkins resulting in multiple publications and presentations on strategies to minimize speech and swallowing difficulties. Recent advances in pain management during radiation therapy developed by this research collaborative have already shown great promise in protecting patients from potential swallowing difficulties during and after their cancer treatment. She works closely with colleagues in surgery, radiation oncology, and medical oncology to tackle the often difficult problems encountered by patients with head and neck cancer. She has particular interest in investigating the role of innovative surgical techniques such as Transoral Robotic Surgery (TORS) in minimizing long term functional deficits.Heather is involved in the education of future speech pathologists as well as residents and fellows in the Otolaryngology program. She regularly lectures on issues regarding rehabilitation of patients with head and neck cancer at multiple universities as well as at the national level. She is a member of multiple professional societies including the American Speech Language Hearing Association, the Dysphagia Research Society, and the American Head and Neck Society.
Heather’s areas of research interest include investigation of strategies to enhance patient adherence to rehabilitation plans during head and neck cancer treatment, evaluation of communication and swallowing outcomes after Transoral Robotic Surgery (TORS), and assessment of voice outcomes after thyroid surgeries.
Multispectral Imaging to Characterize Patterns of Vascular Supply Within Lymphoepithelial Mucosa in Oropharyngeal Cancer
The purpose of this study is to characterize the blood supply at the base of the tongue and
within the tonsil region. We hypothesize that high-resolution Narrow Band Imaging (NBI) will
improve the diagnosis of oropharyngeal carcinoma (OPC). The goal is to provide the better
assessment of tumor and thus providing better preoperative expectations to patients with OPC
or tumor extent prior to radiation therapy.
Stanford is currently not accepting patients for this trial.
For more information, please contact Nikta Bedi, 650-723-5957.
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Investigation of Two Swallowing Therapy Models During Radiation Therapy for Head and Neck Cancer
Vibrent Health is partnering with Stanford Cancer Center to conduct a randomized control
trial (RCT) using mobile health technology to enhance adherence and improve swallowing
outcomes in patients undergoing radiation therapy for head and neck cancer.