This week on Thursday April 6, I am going to be awarded the Marion Downs award for Excellence in Pediatric Audiology. It is always an honor to be recognized by your peers. This is an extraordinary honor, and for me a very special one because it recognizes Marion Downs and her work and focuses on Pediatric Audiology. In some ways it feels a little like cheating because I am being honored for work I have always loved to do. I considered Marion a mentor to me so receiving an honor in her name is wonderful.
Marion and me
More than 20 years ago I was running down the hall at an AAA convention and Marion stopped me and said, “You are getting old, and you are not doing enough to share what you know. You better get going!” It struck me as funny at the time because, here was Marion, about 30 years older than me telling me that I was getting old. But she did move me along. I went to work immediately on my first pediatric audiology textbook – a book on Behavioral Evaluation of Hearing in Infants and Young Children published by Thieme. It came out with a video (do you remember video’s) which demonstrated BOA, VRA, CPA, and speech testing of infants and children.
Then sometime, (we cannot remember when but likely early 80’s) Marion, Steffi Resnick, Laura Wilber, and I decided we needed to do a talk on the Role of Woman in Audiology at AAA. We were concerned that there were not enough woman being active and we thought the history of woman’s role in the field might excite some people.
Then when Carol Flexer and I decided to write our textbook, Pediatric Audiology: Diagnosis, Technology and Management, Marion very generously agreed to write the Preface. It was a great honor, especially considering that she and Jerry Northern had a competing textbook. But that was Marion. She was very generous.
Other influences that have contributed to my being me
David Luterman was my first mentor. (I babysat for the Luterman kids while I was an undergrad) I was the audiologist in the Emerson College Deaf Nursery the year it began. I tested lots of little kids. One day I walked into David’s office and said “This kid is not testable.” He looked at me and said “What you mean is that you can’t test this child. You will need to write in the report that you could not test this child.” It was, maybe, the most important lesson I learned. I made the decision right that minute, that I was going to learn to test well enough so that I did not have to write I could not test this child too often. David also taught me a lot about providing support for families and how critical family support is. Thank you David.
Robert Goldstein was my doctoral advisor. I was his first student and we learned together. Bob taught me a lot about research, about organizing a clinic, about working with people. He continues to influence me.
When I was a high school student I was trying to decide what I was going to be when I grew up, and I volunteered at the New York League for the Hard of Hearing. Dorothy Noto Lewis was the director and she taught me how to work with kids with hearing loss, to believe that kids who were deaf could learn to listen and talk, and that I could help. Dorothy showed me that speech and hearing was where I wanted to be. Then in 1970 we moved back to NY and I went back to the League to see if there was a job for me. Dorothy and Ruth Green were reorganizing the League and moving from Adult and Children’s programs to Audiology and Speech-Language programs. Since I was both an audiologist and speech-language pathologist they gave me the choice of which program to direct. It wasn’t easy but I chose Audiology and never looked back.
Of course, the most significant influence on me has been the families I worked with. I learned from every family who honored me by allowing me to work with them. I always kept David’s words in mind. I believe that every child is testable. As I worked with students, clinical fellows and 4th years I tried to pass on that point of view. Passing this on to students may be what I value most.
And most important
I started working in this field when most women stayed home. I was lucky. I have a husband who supported having a working wife and was happy for all I accomplished and helped me accomplish lots. I had two great kids, Jody and Josh, who had no trouble with a mom who was not there as much as other moms. (They learned to cook and to be independent.) My daughter sent a postcard from camp one year to tell me that one of the kids in her bunk had hearing loss and ask me what I was going to do to help. My son, the musician, wears musician plugs and sees that his friends do also.
I have been fortunate
I have been fortunate. I had lots of opportunities, I had mentors who encouraged and supported me, I had a family who helped and supported me, and I worked with wonderful families who helped me learn. Thank you all.