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Audiology Alumna Shared Case Studies to Deepen UNC Graduate Student Learning During COVID-19 Closures

Hands-on learning is vital for students in the UNC's Audiology program, but COVID-19 has disrupted such learning environments. However, an Audiology alumna stepped up to share case studies for graduate students in Audiology at UNC.

Hands-on learning is an important part of many University of Northern Colorado programs, and it is central to UNC’s prestigious Audiology program, which offers students clinicals around the country as well as at UNC’s on-campus Audiology Clinic.

However, closures and limitations imposed by the COVID-19 outbreak meant that audiology clinics were unable to continue business as usual — which meant students in the middle of practicums were unable to continue. 

“My heart just immediately sank for them,” said Marin Adkisson, Au.D., a 2012 graduate of UNC’s Doctor of Audiology program. “Because I was once a student and know how important the clinical experience is when learning to be an audiologist.”

Adkisson decided to become an Audiology and Speech-Language Sciences major at the recommendation of her sister, who was just a few years ahead of her at UNC. Her first ASLS course, Introduction to Communication Disorders, convinced her she made the right decision. The field, Adkisson says, allows practitioners to change people’s lives for the better with “the gift of hearing,” enabling them to reengage with loved ones. She references a Helen Keller quote that sums up the importance of audiology to her and her patients: “Blindness separates people from things; deafness separates people from people.”

Because of that, Adkisson says, audiology is an especially rewarding career — and one she’s passionate about sharing with students and the next generation of audiologists.

She had been supervising a UNC doctoral student at her private audiology practice in Lakewood, Colorado, for two weeks before COVID-19 prevented them from in-person meeting. Her clinic was able to continue offering limited services via a telehealth portal, phone calls, emails and some contactless/physical distanced curbside appointments. Adkisson continued virtually meeting with her student and started wondering if other preceptors had continued meeting with their students, as well. She reached out to Diane Erdbruegger, UNC’s Audiology Clinic and clinical placement coordinator, to ask how else she could help. Erdbruegger asked her to present case studies to the third- and fourth-year doctoral students on clinical rotations.

Through weekly Zoom sessions, Adkisson shared case studies of rare pathologies she’s dealt with in her career, walking the students through how and why she made the treatment decisions she did. Because Adkisson owns her practice, she had access to her patient files even during closures, which allowed her to share anonymized diagnostic testing results, further enhancing the usefulness of the case studies. As the president of the Colorado Academy of Audiology, Adkisson also has deep insight into the challenges and opportunities for clinicians across the state.

Ultimately, Adkisson wants every UNC Audiology student to have the same great experience she did.

“I love giving back to UNC because of the positive experience I had there,” she says.

As for how she will be moving on as the state reopens from pandemic-related closures, Adkisson keeps a positive mindset.

“There’s so many positive things that come out of a challenging time like this,” she says. “From an audiology side, we learn new and probably more effective ways to help our patients.”

She says this experience can also have a positive impact on the careers of current students: They’re becoming compassionate, resilient, creative thinkers.

“We all certainly are learning gratefulness, in life, and the importance of human connection,” she says.

--Written by Rebecca Dell

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