Streetbuzz Interview

May 18, 2005

Gail Noble-Sanderson: Speech-language pathologist, Director of Rehabilitation Services at Skagit Valley Hospital, Director of Skagit Valley Wound Healing Institute, mother, dynamo granma, happily married woman.
Lives in Mt. Vernon, Washington State, USA.


Gail Noble-Sanderson

STREETBUZZ: Gail, when and where were you born?

GAIL NOBLE-SANDERSON: I was born in Akron, Ohio, on April 25, 1950.

STREETBUZZ: How about your family and childhood. Were you happy?

GAIL NOBLE-SANDERSON: I have one brother and one sister. We grew up in a small rural community outside of Akron. I had pretty much a "Beaver Cleaver" childhood: yes, I was happy and extremely naive. No- not according to some people. My family says there's Gail's world and then the real world. Ha!
My biggest challenge growing up was the fact that I stuttered severly following a bout of pneumonia at the age of four. From that time on, I had difficulty speaking and it progessed to the point that by the age of ten no one outside my family could understand a word I said. My wonderful grandmother, Edith, along with my mom, found a new speech pathologist graduate from Akron University who began working with me. I had many secondary characteristics including head jerks, tongue thrusting, lack of eye gaze, etc. in addition to the stutters. The first time I met him he told me I looked like a chicken when I talked. I broke out in sobs, and my mother was angry with his perceived lack of sensitivity. However, I was crying because I also felt like a chicken and finally someone was acknowledging the reality of what I looked and sounded like.
I worked with him for four years. His therapy included progressive relaxation, visualizing, techniques including slow talking, easy on-sets, cancellations, etc. but primarily he helped me realize I was not stupid, mentally deficient amd worked with me to acknowledge these feelings when I was in a great deal of denial.

STREETBUZZ: So you had started to overcome that trial by the time you were in high school?

GAIL NOBLE-SANDERSON: I still stuttered some in high school and at the age of 54 I realize it is a part of my cognitive make-up and has really been a blessing in my life as it has led me to my profession as a speech-language pathologist and granted me a sensitivity to the pain of others.
I have a tenacious personality and never let that stop me from any activities in high school I was interested in pursuing, such as music, drama, and was head majorette my junior and senior years!

STREETBUZZ: So after you graduated from high school?

GAIL NOBLE-SANDERSON: After graduation, I went to work at Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. in Akron as a junior secretary. My father would not let me go to college because he thought my stuttering would interfere and I was "too sensitive." So, I was a very bored secretary. I met an engineer from Germany and got married and moved to California. I continued to work at Firestone in Salinas and four years later had my first daughter, followed two years later by my last daughter.
We moved to North Carolina for four years, then to Maryland for five years. And then here to Washington State in 1985. We divorced shortly thereafter and I went to W.W.U. (Western Washington University in Bellingham) to complete both undergrad and graduate studies in speech pathology. I began working in the schools and later at St. Joe's in Bellingham and the last eight years here at Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon. The last five years I have had the privilege of serving as the Director of Rehabilitation. Which if someone told me ten years ago I would be in this position I would never have thought it possible.

Oh! I forgot to tell you about Terry! 19 years ago I met a wonderful man with three wonderful daughters. We have been married for the last 17 years. Our combined family originally consisting of our five marvelous daughters, has now grown to include seven amazing grandchildren.
The moral is, life is full of possibilities, you just need to believe in yourself and have the support of loving family and friends.

Gail Noble-Sanderson

STREETBUZZ: Gail, to be blunt, you are the best supervisor I ever had. What is your philosophy of supervision?

GAIL NOBLE-SANDERSON: Thanks for the compliment!!! When I became a supervisor I knew that my philosophy of leadership was perhaps not typical. I believe that my job is to create an atmosphere of trust, teamwork, collaboration and joy that allows those I work with to meet the needs of their patients and themselves. I also tend to think women "manage" differently then men.

STREETBUZZ: Health care work is very stressful and places somewhat unique demands on the people who do it. Any comments?

GAIL NOBLE-SANDERSON: Often people working in heathcare place their needs last and the needs of those they serve become paramount at their expense. I see this every day not only in my own staff but in nursing, physicians, and other healthcare providers. We need to therefore ensure that our work environments are "heathy" and that our lives are balanced between home, work, community and fun.

STREETBUZZ: The role of health care in modern seems to me that health care has increasingly become a "band-aid" to repair some of the damage resulting from modern life..."diseases of civilization" including sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy fat-rich diets, pollution, etc. But it's not really health care, it's sickness care, and doesn't address what's causing these health problems.

GAIL NOBLE-SANDERSON: Yes, we are a sedentary society! This has nothing to do with health care but everything to do with negatively impacting our health care system. There is much talk about physicial fitness and not enough talk about living a physically active life. Just three ten-minute periods of fast walking a day coupled with a heart-healthy diet could reduce the health care crises we currently find outselves in. I am extrememly concerned about our children as they spend much time in front of computer, video games and TV often accompanied by food. We are seeing an alarming increase in juvenile diabetes in our country and one physician commented recently that this is the first generation that will not outlive their parents! This is all preventable - turn off the machines, get walking, eat less and take responsibility!!!!

STREETBUZZ: That segues right into a related issue: our sedentary lives are facilitated by our addiction to driving our huge cars. And we are willing to go to war to preserve our right to unlimited supplies of petroleum. Any comments on that? Politics in general?

GAIL NOBLE-SANDERSON: We are a global society. I do not believe we can survive as nations if we don't realize that we can no longer create and forcibly maintain our own economic agendas! Our planet is at risk as well as our cultures. If we do not expand our understanding of others beliefs and needs, we are part of the problem and not the solution. We are the richest country in the world. I would like to see us engaging in talks to discuss facilitating peace through the building of schools, and medical clinics to reduce poverty, increase knowledge and hopefully result in a planet that respects and supports all peoples including sustaining our mother planet but reducing the needs for oil and materials. I could start with my own closet.
My husband and I are looking at trading in our oil-consuming SUV for a hybrid car. If we truly want change we all must change!!!!

STREETBUZZ: Spirituality. Can you describe your own spiritual beliefs?

GAIL NOBLE-SANDERSON: For many years I embraced a spiritual culture that required me to make judgements about others behaviors and beliefs. As I went though many life challenges and changes, I have come to believe that life is not black and white but many shades of gray. I believe in a Higher Power but do not suppose that I understand the hearts of others and leave that to whomever created our worlds.

STREETBUZZ: Skagit Valley: you live in a very beautiful place! But it's also threatened. Comments?

GAIL NOBLE-SANDERSON: Our environment here in Skagit Valley is unique and is I believe, the culture is as well. We almost revere our waters, forests, mountains, and farmland - but I fear not quite enough to save it from ever encroaching development. Again, we must take a stand and be active to save these precious areas - we certainly do not need a bigger Wal-mart or more malls. We paved paradise to put in a parking lot.
(Buzzflash note: The Mount Vernon City Council just approved construction of a Wal-mart Supercenter in Mount Vernon: Read the article)

STREETBUZZ: What do you think about the future?

GAIL NOBLE-SANDERSON: It surprises me that with our vast accumulated knowledge, that we still never learn life lessons from our past. I often wonder what the next 50 years hold for my grandchildren and feel a real sense of urgency to teach them about the need for peace and cooperation, for saving our planet and creating a world where all peoples have a chance for happiness. I know that I live in a privileged place and my concerns are not focused on where will I find food for my starving babies today or wondering when I will die and leave them because I have AIDS. Our children need to understand that we have a global responsibility to all our brothers and sisters - to whom much is given, much is expected, and we need to fulfill our responsibilities if this planet is to survive.

Gail Noble-Sanderson



Gail can be contacted at