Callier Volunteers Take Audiology Skills to Panama
Students Accompany Faculty Members on 10-Day Trip to Help Indigent
Feb. 4, 2010
Students and faculty from the UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders continued their international humanitarian outreach with a recent trip to Panama.
Four doctor of audiology (Au.D.) students and two faculty members from the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences spent 10 days helping indigent children and adults with hearing disorders in the country’s southern provinces.
Dr. Brisy Northrup, audiologist, and Dr. Carol Cokely, coordinator of clinical teaching in audiology and clinical associate professor, led the group.
Northrup, a native Panamanian, has been devoted to hearing health care in Panama for decades. Through her continued efforts, she has helped establish a foundation, train professionals in hearing health care, arrange humanitarian trips and secure donations.
“Hearing health care is growing in Panama, but the need for services overpowers the capabilities at this time,” said Cokely. “The access to hearing health care outside of Panama City is far more limited than within the city.”
Since Panama has so few trained phonoaudiologists — individuals with bachelor’s degrees in speech and hearing — and does not offer any post-graduate degrees in audiology, many people would not receive the treatment they need without the assistance of trained volunteers.
The Callier group conducted hearing evaluations, verified and repaired existing equipment, and provided donated hearing aids to infants and adults.
“The trip gave me the opportunity to see how audiology is practiced in another country and to serve patients with hearing loss who do not have access to services,” said Lisa Huston, Au.D. student. “We faced new obstacles every day, so we had to find creative solutions in order to evaluate and treat the people who were desperate for our help.”
In addition to receiving valuable hands-on training, the students earned clinic-service hours, which are a requirement for their degree. Two of the students used the trip as a requirement for an independent study course.
“Having the opportunity to truly make a difference in so many people’s lives was the best part of the trip for me,” said Elizabeth Parks, Au.D. student. “The experience of having to adapt fairly quickly to a different culture and health care system will help me in my future clinical practice.”
Annie Cardella and Christine Downer, Au.D. students, and Reagan Youngblood, Callier Center audiologist and UT Dallas alumna, also joined the group.