Award to Honor Pivotal Career in Speech Research

Recognition Cites Dr. Emily Tobey's Pioneering Work With Cochlear Implants

Oct. 13, 2010

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has announced plans to award Dr. Emily Tobey of UT Dallas its prestigious Honors of the Association for her pioneering research and academic leadership. 

Tobey holds the Nelle C. Johnston Chair in Communication Disorders in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS) and conducts much of her research in the Callier Center for Communication Disorders. In selecting her for its highest honor, ASHA cited her study of speech production by cochlear implant users, her groundbreaking studies in oral rehabilitation and brain imaging, and her many leadership roles. The award will be presented to Tobey and other recipients in November in Philadelphia. 

“Emily Tobey’s research and service contributions to improving the life of those with hearing disorders and diseases is remarkable,” Dr. William Yost, professor and chairman of speech and hearing science at Arizona State University, wrote in his letter supporting Tobey’s nomination. “Her body of work has been substantial and significant, which to me is the definition of what is meant by receiving Honors from ASHA.” 

Tobey said she is pleased to receive this special recognition from her fellow researchers and clinicians. Out of more than 140,000 ASHA members, only 200 have been awarded the Honors of the Association. 

“Although I receive this award as a personal award, it clearly is not,” she said. “The award represents the efforts of the Dallas Cochlear Implant Program, a joint enterprise between UT Dallas, UT Southwestern Medical Center and Children’s Medical Center, to provide our community with a first-rate clinical and research team. I am proud to be associated with the team and thrilled by the recognition of our quality program.”

Tobey has made some of the most important contributions concerning the longitudinal effects of cochlear implantation on children during her decades-long focus on speech production and oral language development in young people. Her work has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or other agencies since 1975, and she currently holds three active NIH grants. 

After earning her PhD from City University of New York in 1981, her career took a new path when she became part of the team that helped organize the first Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clinical trials for cochlear implants. The prosthetic device was considered extremely controversial at the time, with no consensus of acceptance by the scientific community. 

She soon became involved in the design and execution of national FDA clinical trials and was among the first investigators to be funded by the NIH to conduct investigations in deaf individuals receiving the devices. Her activities resulted in FDA approval of the devices for implantation in children in 1992 and their current use worldwide. 

Tobey’s recent research has expanded to include using the latest imaging techniques to study changes in brain function in adults who receive cochlear implants. This leading-edge work could help specialists determine underlying processes in the speech perception and production of adults who had normal hearing, lost hearing through deafness and regained auditory input with a cochlear implant.

“I have always had a simple goal — to make the quality of life better for individuals who experience difficulty hearing,” Tobey said. “My interactions with  faculty and students at UT Dallas, the Callier Center, and the Dallas Cochlear Implant Program facilitate solutions in many forms from theoretically driven possibilities to helping families adjust their lifestyles to accommodate hearing technology.”

Tobey has published peer-reviewed manuscripts with more than 155 professionals around the world during her career. She works directly on research efforts not only at UT Dallas, but also with John Hopkins School of Medicine, UT Southwestern Medical Center and many other institutions around the world. 

Besides her direct involvement in research, Tobey also has helped raise awareness and encourage progress by taking on leadership and administrative posts with a variety of top professional organizations, such as ASHA and the Acoustical Society of America. She serves as associate provost at UT Dallas, assisting with faculty development, program review, diversity and community engagement. 

Teaching has always been a top priority for Tobey, and she has launched the careers of many graduate students involved in the field of speech, language and hearing. Before joining UT Dallas, she was a professor at Louisiana State University Medical Center.

Tobey earned her bachelor’s degree at New Mexico State University and her master’s degree at Louisiana State, both in speech-language pathology. 

“ASHA’s recognition of Emily Tobey for her career achievements is wonderful acknowledgement of her decades-long leadership in speech and hearing science,” said Dr. Bert Moore, dean of BBS. “There is no greater pleasure as an academic than being honored by one’s peers, and this is the highest recognition bestowed by the leading organization in Emily’s field. The University is the daily recipient of her many talents, and this award pleases her colleagues and me greatly.”


Media Contact: Emily Martinez, UT Dallas, (214) 905-3049, emily.martinez@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu
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Dr. Emily Tpbey

Dr. Emily Tobey was part of the team that helped organize the first Food and Drug Administration clinical trials for cochlear implants. Her work resulted in approval of the devices for implantation in children in 1992 and their current use worldwide.

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