"Working with Kelly is like picking up with a sister I've known for years," said McMicken, with a chuckle.
"It's a very easy friendship," added Rogers.
As Rogers talks and laughs, few people would notice her unique condition.
Rogers, 42, was born without a tongue, a rare disorder called congenital aglossia. The Mission Viejo resident is reportedly just one of two individuals in the world diagnosed with the disorder, and one of 11 recorded in medical literature since 1718.
Rogers learned to talk at a young age using the muscles in her mouth and throat. She said she's mostly led a normal life and never gave much thought to her condition until recently.
"I'm still getting used to everybody telling me how amazing I am, because for me it's no big deal," she said.
But for people like McMicken, a nationally renowned speech therapist and expert on communicative disorders, Rogers is a phenomenon.
"Kelly is an extraordinary individual," McMicken said. "This is like somebody seeing without eyes and hearing without ears. This woman speaks without a tongue. The more we understand how Kelly does this, the more we can help other individuals with similar conditions."
McMicken said the story of how she and Rogers met and reconnected more than two decades later is also extraordinary.
The two first met in 1986 when Rogers, then a 16-year-old girl, came to a hospital in Orange County for cosmetic jaw reconstruction.
McMicken and a team of doctors determined that any form of surgery would affect Rogers' ability to speak. The doctors could do little for her.
"The last time I saw Kelly she was crying with her mother in the parking lot and that image just stuck with me," McMicken said.
Fascinated by Rogers' rare condition, McMicken and the medical team took audio and videotapes of the girl speaking. McMicken stashed the footage in a box and then forgot about it for 25 years. One day, while showing a video on communicative disorders to a class at Cal State Long Beach, she was suddenly reminded of the girl with no tongue.
McMicken dug up the old footage and realized it could be used in new research. She launched a search for Rogers, determined to find the young women who possibly could hold a key to breakthroughs in technology for the speaking-impaired.
A July 2011 article in the Press-Telegram documented McMicken's research and her efforts to find Rogers.
After getting over the initial shock of seeing the inside of her mouth in a newspaper article, Rogers called McMicken.
"I was blown away, if I had been standing up I would have fallen over," McMicken said. "I just couldn't believe it was Kelly."
The two realized they lived just five minutes apart from each other in Orange County. Rogers works at the GAP as a sales associate and was studying fashion merchandising at Saddleback College with the hopes of transferring to Cal State Long Beach.
The two quickly bonded and McMicken persuaded Rogers to change her major to speech pathology. Rogers will attend Cal State Long Beach this fall and plans to eventually work with children who have speech impairments.
"Kelly can be such an inspiration to others," McMicken said.
Rogers now works as McMicken's research assistant and the two spend about 16 hours a week together pouring over papers and projects.
For both Rogers and McMicken, the experience of reconnecting has been life changing.
On Saturday, Rogers traveled to Brazil to meet with the only other documented person with congenital aglossia -- a 22-year-old nursing student -- as well as the medical team working with the woman. While in Brazil, Rogers will lecture in front of a group of medical experts.
"I know they'll just be blown away like I was," McMicken said.
McMicken was supposed to travel with Rogers, but in December she was diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery.
McMicken is now recovering and said she's looking forward to working with Rogers on more research. For now, the two are co-authoring a paper examining the movement of the high mandible, or jawbone, and two points in the oral cavity correlating with speech movement.
Rogers said she's learning how to embrace her condition as a unique opportunity to help others. In March, she'll speak before the California Speech and Hearing Association in Long Beach.
"It's been an adjustment, because it's something I never really thought about and now I'm thinking about it every day," she said. "But it's been a positive experience. I see a lot of opportunities coming my way."