Our Story

STEP is an all-in-one online learning solution for swallowing and swallowing disorders

Swallowing Training and Education Portal (STEP) was created with the mission to make evidence-based swallowing training and education affordable and accessible to all. Since 2018, we have supported hundreds of instructors, empowered thousands of students and clinicians to advance their knowledge and skills in dysphagia management, and helped them all ultimately improve the lives of countless individuals living with dysphagia around the world.

STEP was born out of frustration and has been meticulously molded by experience. 

In 2017, swallowing scientist Dr. Ianessa Humbert and speech-language pathologist Rinki Varindani Desai met and shared common experiences and frustrations about the lack of resources to support swallowing training and education needs among SLP students and clinicians. For decades, swallowing education was solely being provided in classrooms via textbooks in a limited amount of time. With an ever-increasing number of students and clinicians feeling under-prepared and under-competent in the area of dysphagia management, while being expected to serve as “swallowing experts” at their workplace – they recognized we need to do better. The stakes are higher when our swallowing expertise directly dictates an individual’s ability to eat and drink and impacts their quality of life. This led to the creation of what was first Dysphagia Grand Rounds and then grew into what STEP is today.

STEP was created to meet students’ and clinicians’ ongoing swallowing training and education needs - allowing them to learn any time, any place, at their own pace

It's almost impossible for even the best instructors to cover everything related to swallowing in one or two semesters. Swallowing training and education needs to be more detailed, dynamic, engaging, evidence-based, accessible, and learner-focused. It should include adequate exposure to normal swallow function, and include real-world visuals, research, clinical experience, and critical thinking. This is where STEP comes in - to meet your swallowing training and education needs - all in one place! 

We aim to make high-quality, low-cost, evidence-based swallowing training and education accessible to all. 

Our vision is to live in a world where no SLP feels like they do not have access to adequate swallowing training and education, before treating a patient. STEP offers unlimited access to 75+ hours of low-cost, high-quality, engaging coursework created by experts - to support clinicians, students, and instructors around the world. Learn at your own pace, build your dysphagia knowledge base and advance your skills at any stage with our courses - from basics to clinics. We love to teach, learn, collaborate, and create. We value integrity, authenticity, passion, and a commitment to learning.  We want to foster critical thinking, competence, and confidence in dysphagia management globally. 

Come join our growing community and let us help you along your journey - one STEP at a time.

Meet the Founders


Ianessa Humbert, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Dr. Ianessa Humbert is a world-renowned scientist, educator, and  highly sought-after speaker with expertise in swallowing and swallowing disorders.  With over 100 speaking invitations around the world, the most common feedback from attendees continues to be “This is the first time a course has really forced me to think about what I’m doing”. 

Dr. Humbert’s teaching philosophy requires attendees to question everything they think they know before learning can begin. Dr. Humbert’s innovative training style has been funded by ASHFoundation and extends to non-traditional learning formats. She is the co-creator of the popular Down the Hatch podcast and has co-founded STEP. She has also co-founded interVESTED to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field of speech-language pathology and beyond. 

Dr. Humbert has demonstrated her gift for creating images that depict the dynamism of swallowing via her Swallowing Pocket Guide and SNAPS on STEP. Dr. Humbert has been on faculty at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the University of Florida, and the University of Iowa. 

The content from Dr. Humbert’s courses are supported by scientific evidence from her laboratory, from the larger body of research literature, and of course, common sense! Learn more at www.ianessahumbert.com.


Rinki Varindani Desai, M.S., CCC-SLP

Rinki Varindani Desai is an ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist, certified brain injury specialist and certified dementia practitioner; specializing in the assessment and treatment of cognitive-linguistic and swallowing disorders in adults for over a decade. In addition to being the co-founder of STEP, Rinki is also the founder of the Medical SLP Forum and co-creator of the Dysphagia Therapy mobile app. She is Associate Coordinator of ASHA’s SIG 13 and Co-Chair of the Dysphagia Research Society's COVID-19 Task Force. She is an invited member of ASHA’s Alternative Payment Models Committee, DRS 2021 and ASHA 2021 Program Planning Committees and MSHA Membership and Healthcare Committees. Rinki was one among thirty clinicians in the US selected for ASHA’s Leadership Development Program and Faculty Development Institute. Originally an SLP from Mumbai, India, Rinki is currently the adult outpatient lead and a clinical instructor in the Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. She enjoys reading, writing, teaching, traveling with her husband around the world, and doing what she can to help advance the profession by paying it forward. Reach out to Rinki to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Ianessa Humbert, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Dr. Ianessa Humbert is a world-renowned scientist, researcher, educator, and  highly sought-after speaker with expertise in swallowing and swallowing disorders.  With over 100 speaking invitations around the world, the most common feedback from attendees continues to be “This is the first time a course has really forced me to think about what I’m doing”. 

Dr. Humbert’s teaching philosophy requires attendees to question everything they think  they know before learning can begin. Dr. Humbert’s innovative training style has been funded by ASHFoundation and extends to non-traditional learning formats. She is the co-creator of the popular Down the Hatch podcast and has co-founded STEP. She also does important work to help promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field of speech-language pathology and beyond. 

Dr. Humbert has been on faculty at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the University of Florida, and the University of Iowa. She has demonstrated her gift for creating images that depict the dynamism of swallowing via her Swallowing Pocket Guide and Swallowing Neuro Anatomy and Physiology Shorts (SNAPS) tutorials on STEP. 

The content from Dr. Humbert’s courses are supported by scientific evidence from her laboratory, from the larger body of research literature, and of course, common sense! Learn more at www.ianessahumbert.com.

Rinki Varindani Desai, M.S., CCC-SLP

Rinki Varindani Desai is an ASHA-certified medical speech-language pathologist, certified brain injury specialist and certified dementia practitioner; specializing in the assessment and treatment of swallowing disorders in adults since over a decade. 

In addition to being the co-founder of STEP, Rinki is also the founder of the Medical SLP Forum and co-creator of the Dysphagia Therapy mobile app. She is Associate Coordinator of ASHA’s SIG 13 and Co-Chair of the Dysphagia Research Society's COVID-19 Task Force. She has been an invited member of ASHA’s Alternative Payment Models Committee, DRS 2021 and ASHA 2021 Program Planning Committees, MSHA Membership and Healthcare Committees, and starts her three-year term on ASHA's Scientific and Professional Education Board in January 2022. Rinki was one among thirty clinicians in the US selected for ASHA’s Leadership Development Program and Faculty Development Institute and has won multiple ASHA ACE awards for her commitment to lifelong learning in speech-language pathology. She has written about and presented on topics related to adult dysphagia management at conferences around the world. 

 Originally an SLP from Mumbai, India, Rinki is currently the adult outpatient lead and a clinical instructor in the Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. She enjoys reading, writing, teaching, traveling with her husband around the world, and doing what she can to help advance the profession by paying it forward. Reach out to Rinki to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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