Center is Poised to Present Inaugural Callier Prize

Foundation Has Been Instrumental in Establishing Biannual Tribute

March 2, 2009

After two years of planning, the UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders is about to bestow its first namesake prize on an individual whose work has made a significant impact on the field of communications.

And when the Callier Prize in Communication Disorders is presented this weekend to Australian scientist Dr. Hugh J. McDermott, much of the credit for moving the idea from conception to reality will belong to the Foundation for the Callier Center.

The foundation has long championed the idea of a Callier Prize.

Knowing the weight the Callier name carries in science and clinical circles, the foundation board envisioned an award given every two years in conjunction with an academic conference.

The foundation envisioned the conference, which will host a panel of world-renowned researchers Saturday at the Callier Center in Dallas, as a way to draw international attention to the center’s work in speech-language pathology and audiology.

The foundation is hosting a reception in Dr. McDermott’s honor Friday night at the home of Kathy and Harlan Crow.

Board officers include Pam Busbee, president; Sara Martineau, past president; Mike McCullough, counsel; Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, vice president for external relations; Tricia George, vice president for development; Lee C. Ritchie, vice president for finance; Michael Meadows, vice president for nominations; and Dr. Lynn Markle, secretary.

Ken and Ruth Altshuler will serve as honorary chairs for the prize.

“The presentation of the first Callier Prize is a milestone for the Callier Center and Dallas,” said Dr. Altshuler. “Ruth and I are delighted to be a part of this wonderful event because the research in this area is certain to bring tremendous breakthroughs in the coming years.”

As a pioneer in psychiatric research and in developing services for persons with early profound deafness, Dr. Altshuler has long had a special interest in working with people with profound hearing loss. In recognition of his work, Gallaudet University bestowed an honorary doctorate upon him.

Ruth and Ken’s many civic commitments include their efforts to help people affected by deafness or hearing loss through their support of the Callier Center, whose mission is to advance knowledge and service in preventing, diagnosing, treating and defeating communication disorders.

The Altshulers pledged a generous gift to the center that helped to launch the Callier Care Fund, which provides financial support in three critical areas:

  • Infants through seniors who are unable to pay for patient treatment.
  • Students faced with financial roadblocks while earning a degree as future audiologists and speech-language pathologists.
  • Research seed money for projects with promising diagnostic and treatment methods.

“UT Dallas is grateful for the Altshulers’ generosity to the Callier Center, which touches on the needs of patients, students and researchers,” said UT Dallas President David Daniel. “Their support of the Callier Center will benefit our campus and Dallas for years to come.”

This is the first year the Callier Prize in Communication Disorders has been awarded. The prize recognizes individuals from around the world for their leadership in fostering scientific advances and significant developments in the diagnosis and treatment of communication disorders.

Dr. McDermott, who is a professor at the University of Melbourne’s Department of Otolaryngology, was selected as the first recipient of the Callier Prize because of his research in developing new or improved sound processing schemes for cochlear implants and hearing aids.

Advances in Cochlear Implants

“These are exciting times for everyone involved with hearing technology,” said Dr. McDermott. “There are a lot of new devices, including acoustic and implantable hearing aids. Plus, consumers are reporting a more comfortable fit with the new devices.”

The field of audiology technology has not been without controversy. Cochlear implants were very controversial when they first became available.

Today, the controversy has greatly diminished, but there are some people who are concerned about the bilaterial – both ears – implantation of the device.

“The data shows the use of bilateral cochlear implants is the best way for children to get as much hearing as possible during the language development years,” notes McDermott. “But once the ears have been implanted, the option to use a future alternative – and possibly better – device is no longer available.”

Children as young as 6 months and adults in their 90s are benefiting from cochlear implants. The implants are very expensive, many times costing in the tens-of-thousands of dollars, so finding ways to provide this technology to everyone who needs it can be difficult.

“The Callier Center is a partner in the Dallas Cochlear Implant Program, and has a long history of providing clinical services to patients in need of hearing devices,” said Dr. Thomas Campbell, executive director of the Callier Center. “The expense of the devices and the follow-up care may seem daunting to some, but through the generous support of our donors like the Altshulers, we are able to offer financial assistance to those who are in need.”

The technology continues to evolve, and researchers are looking at ways to improve the current devices and develop new ones. In the near future, Dr. McDermott expects a convergence of cochlear implants and conventional acoustical hearing aids which will lessen the current limitations associated with cochlear implants, including the ability to clearly decipher music.


Media Contacts: Debra Brown, UT Dallas, (214) 905-3049, debra@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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The Callier Prize

Australian scientist Dr. Hugh J. McDermott is the first recipient of the Callier Prize in Communication Disorders.

He is being honored in recognition of his research in developing improved sound processing schemes for cochlear implants and hearing aids.

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