Life and career
Sell qualified in 1976 with a diploma in speech Pathology and Therapeutics from the College of Education in Leicester. Her first appointment as a speech therapist was at Whipps Cross Hospital where she worked from 1976 to 1978. Between 1978 and 1981, she worked at St. Georges Hospital, Tooting, London. In 1981 she moved to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and was appointed head of the department of speech and language therapy in 1996. She gained her Phd in 1992 from De Montfort University for an investigation of speech outcome in Sri Lankan cleft palate subjects with delayed surgery.
She was a key member of the Sri Lankan Cleft Lip and Palate Project, and was Assistant Director of the Eurocleft Speech Group. In the late 1990s, she directed the speech research of the national UK Clinical Standards Advisory Group (CSAG) study in cleft lip and palate, and was subsequently a member of the National Cleft Implementation Group. Her research interests are several and include the management and evaluation of velopharyngeal function, including surgical and prosthetics outcomes associated with structural anomalies and the 22q11DS group, the delivery of speech and language therapy in the Developing World for patients with cleft lip and palate, and methods for the perceptual evaluation of speech. In 2001, she co-edited the British textbook “Management of Cleft Lip and Palate” with Watson and Grunwell. She is currently co-editing a book on Cleft Care in the Developing World with orthodontist Michael Mars and paediatrician Alexander Habel.
She became Honorary Lecturer at Institute of Child Health and then Honorary Senior Lecturer in 1999. Between 1999 –2003, she was Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Health and Community Studies, De Montfort University and in 2003 was Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies University of Latrobe in Melbourne, Australia and the Royal Children’s Hospital.
Debbie is a Fellow of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (FRCSLT), the Cranifacial Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Health Professions Council and the American Cleft Lip and Palate Association.
She was awarded the Fellowship of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists for “work of special value to the profession in one or more of the following areas: research, teaching, publishing, practice” in 1999.
- Head of Speech and Language Therapy, Great Ormond Street Hospital, London
- Lead Speech and Language Therapist, North Thames Regional Cleft Lip and Palate Service (St. Andrew's Centre, Broomfield Hospital, Essex and Great Ormond Street Hospital, London
- Honorary Senior Lecturer, Institute of Child Health, University College London
- Visiting Professor, Faculty of Health and Community Studies, De Montfort University, Leicester
- Adjunct Specialist, Department of Audiology and Speech Sciences, Michigan State University, U.S.
- Fellowship of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, 1999
- Distinguished Fellowship Award, Latrobe University/Children's Hospital, Melbourne, 2001
- Order of the British Empire, 2006
Television and radio documentaries
- Medicine Now: Speech and Cleft Palate, BBC Radio 4, 1991
- Sri Lankan Cleft Lip and Palate Project, BBC World Service, 1992
- QED: When to Change Faces, BBC, 1992 (Winner of the British Medical Association Film Award, 1993)
- Management of Cleft Lip and Palate (2001)