Marion Downs has always been ahead of her time. Sixty years ago, as a junior faculty member in audiology at the University of Denver, she was fitting hearing aids on six-month-olds, something that virtually no one else believed could be done.
In 1963, Dr. Downs opened the nation’s first universal infant hearing screening program in Denver, which inspired the movement that decades later culminated in universal newborn hearing screening programs being established in all 50 states and in countries around the world.
Throughout a long and illustrious career, Dr. Downs, widely known as “the mother of pediatric audiology,” has been a pioneer in identifying and treating hearing loss in babies and young children.
So, it seems fitting that when it comes to planning festivities for Marion Downs’s 100th birthday, her myriad friends and admirers are off to an early start.
“CELEBRATING THE LEGACY”
The big day will be marked by the Celebrating the Legacy Awards Gala, a benefit for the Marion Downs Hearing Center, to be held January 26, 2014, at the Hyatt Regency Tech Center in Denver. The headline performer at the gala will be the singer Donny Osmond, whose family has a high incidence of genetic childhood hearing loss.
Earlier this month, a kick-off/planning session for the event took place in Denver. Hosts included Sandra Gabbard, PhD, co-director of the Marion Downs Hearing Center and director of audiology at University of Colorado Hospital, and Rulon Stacey, president of University of Colorado Health.
Also taking part were Donny Osmond’s brother Merrill and Merrill’s son Justin. Justin, who was born with a 90% hearing loss, has devoted himself to raising awareness of hearing loss and its treatment. He said, “Someone gave me the chance to hear and the chance to speak with conviction, and now I’m using that to help others. The Osmond family will be 110% behind this project.”
Other guests at the kickoff included Eric and Kristi Switzer and their 5-year-old daughter, Nyla, whose hearing loss was identified the day she was born at University of Colorado Hospital. She wears pink hearing aids with purple earmolds and continues to receive services through the Marion Downs Hearing Center.
Marion Downs, still active at 99, was in the East visiting family and missed the planning event. However, there’s no doubt she will be at the gala to celebrate the start of her second century.
In addition to honoring Marion Downs birthday and raising money for the hearing center that bears her name, the gala will launch a year-long effort to promote hearing loss awareness.
“Marion Downs is a visionary, and we’re honored to walk in her footsteps,” said Sandra Gabbard, one of the many audiologists inspired by her work.
Tickets for the gala can be purchased by calling 720/848-3042.