SA Swallowing Services, PLLC (615) 426-5505

SASS LogoSA Swallowing Services, PLLC, or SASS, began in the fall of 2007 with the purpose of providing instrumental, nasoendoscopic swallowing evaluation and consultative services to nursing care facilities across Tennessee. The need for this service company was based upon the professional experiences of the owners, Michelle Skelley and John R. Ashford, following years of working in the healthcare industry as Speech-Language Pathologists.  Today, SASS serves nursing care facilities, hospitals, and physician’s offices in three states.  FEES training (Basic and Advanced) courses are offered to Speech-Language Pathologists preparing to institute FEES studies in their facilities.  Courses are offered throughout the year in Nashville, Tennessee, and at onsite facilities across the United States and internationally.

Why the name, “SA Swallowing Services?”  The “S” stands for “Skelley” (Michelle) and the “A” stands for “Ashford” (John).  We are a partnership in providing instrumental swallowing assessment services. Thus, “SA Swallowing Services, PLLC, or SASS. For more information, contact us at

Michelle Skelley-Ashford, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, President & Co-Owner


Master of Science in Education, Speech-Language Pathology - Tennessee State University

Bachelor of Science in Speech-Language Pathology - Middle Tennessee State University

Michelle is president and co-owner of SA Swallowing Services. Her experience as a speech-language pathologist includes nursing care facilities, rehabilitation centers, acute care hospitals, & home-health care. She also has experience as an administrator for a home-health care company in west Tennessee. She is certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and licensed by the Board of Communication Sciences and Disorders in Tennessee, Mississippi, Indiana, & Kentucky. She is a certified clinician and trainer in transnasal endoscopy - Tennessee statutes.

John Ashford, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Education Director & Co-Owner


Doctor of Philosophy - Vanderbilt University

Bachelor & Master in Speech-Language Pathology - University of Southern Mississippi

John is Education Director and Co-Owner of SASS. He is a retired Clinical Speech-Language Pathologist from the Veterans Administration Tennessee Valley Health Care System, and a retired Associate Professor of Speech-Language Pathology from Tennessee State University. He previously held an Adjunct Assistant Clinical Professorship at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He chaired the VA Best Practices in Dysphagia Treatment Taskforce, and served on the ASHA Evidence-Based Practice Group reviewing dysphagia clinical practices. He has served as President of the Tennessee Association of Audiologists and Speech-Language-Pathologists, and on the Tennessee Board of Communication Disorders and Sciences. He does research, is published, and has presented nationally in the areas of dysphagia, oral care, and voice disorders.

Karen Brown, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist

Doctor of Philosophy - Vanderbilt University

Master of Science in Speech & Hearing Sciences - Tennessee State University

Karen is a clinical speech-language pathologist and educator with SA Swallowing Services. She has a Master of Science degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences from Tennessee State University and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Vanderbilt University. In addition, she has a Tennessee Professional Teacher license. Karen’s work experience includes four years of clinical service in private long-term care facilities, six years in clinical and research positions at the Department of Veterans Administration Health Care System, and five years as an assistant professor of Communication Disorders and Sciences at Eastern Kentucky University. She holds the ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence and is licensed to practice in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia. Karen is a certified FEES trainer.

Jamie D. Fisher, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist

Doctor of Philosophy – Vanderbilt University

Master of Arts – University of Cincinnati

Bachelor of Science – Tennessee State University

Jamie is a clinical speech-language pathologist and educational supervisor with SA Swallowing Services. More recently, she has practiced as a traveling PRN clinician and holds licenses in four states. Early in her career, she provided speech and language services to school-aged children in public school settings, and, more recently, has transitioned to medical speech-language pathology. Primarily, working in nursing care facilities and hospitals, Jamie has developed unique specialties in assessment and treatment of dysphagia and tracheostomy/ventilator dependent patients. She holds ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence and a Tennessee license and endorsement for endoscopy practice.

William Irwin, Ph.D., CCC-SLP , Speech-Language Pathologist

Doctor of Philosophy - Vanderbilt University

Master in Speech-Language Pathology - University of North Carolina

Billy is a clinical speech-language pathologist, assistant chief of Audiology and Speech Pathology Service for the VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, adjunct instructor of Speech Pathology for Tennessee State University, Vanderbilt School of Medicine, and educator for SASS. Prior to joining the VA, he was a tenured faculty member in a graduate SLP program and served as inpatient/outpatient clinician in a hospital setting. He has conducted research, presented, and published in the areas of adult neurogenic communication disorders and dysphagia. He is a member of ASHA and licensed in North Carolina. He is endorsed as a clinician and trainer for transnasal and oral endoscopy in Tennessee.

Matthew G. Ward, M.S., CCC-SLP , Speech-Language Pathologist

Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology - Tennessee State University

Bachelor of Arts in American Studies - Lipscomb University

Matt is a clinical speech-language pathologist. Prior to joining SASS, he worked as an SLP at National Healthcare Corporation skilled nursing facilities Columbia and Franklin, TN, Maury County Regional Medical Center, Columbia, TN, and Williamson Medical Center, Franklin, TN. He has served as clinical supervisor for graduate students and as an interim Director of Rehabilitation. He is a member of ASHA, ASHA SIG-2 & 13, and the Dysphagia Research Society. Matt is licensed in Tennessee with an instructor endorsement for transnasal and oral endoscopy.