Richard H. Wilson, PhD
Although the research record of Dr. Wilson spans six decades, that remarkable achievement does not capture the most important aspects of his contributions. Of his 126 journal articles, he is sole author on only five. His 68 first-authored research articles are an indication of his initiative and leadership. The number of coauthors, over 100, is evidence of the importance he places on collaboration with his peers, junior colleagues, and students. He believes strongly that research is a process that can be, but often is not, taught to student investigators. His own mentors, notably Raymond Carhart and Donald Dirks, instilled in Richard Wilson a standard for quality and intellectual honesty that he has successfully passed on to dozens of young colleagues.
When Dr. Wilson became chief of the audiology section at the VA Medical Center in Long Beach, California, in 1972, there was no audiology research program. He attracted a staff of research audiologists that made the program one of the most productive audiology research centers in the world. He made this possible by his remarkable grant-writing skills, which he taught to his young research staff, who themselves became successful in attracting research support. When he decided to return to his roots in northeast Tennessee and became chief of the audiology and speech pathology service at the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center, the pattern repeated. He attracted young investigators, mentored them in the grant-writing process, and created one of the most productive audiology research centers in the world. At both locations he developed strong partnerships with affiliated universities, first at the University of California–Irvine and then at East Tennessee State University. His collaboration with East Tennessee State University played a crucial role in developing one of the earliest doctor of audiology programs. He facilitated the active involvement of his staff at the VA to create a strong collaborative audiology training program.
The list of young investigators and mentees who have benefitted from their collaboration with Dr. Wilson is too long to include here but reads like a Who’s Who of audiology research. That is what he wanted to accomplish in his professional work—to raise the level of the profession by setting an example of high standards. His expectations of students and colleagues are always high. Less than complete dedication to high quality in research and clinical practice has never been acceptable. These expectations have helped young colleagues achieve at a level that even they did not expect.
Dr. Wilson’s contributions to his profession go beyond his research publications. His development of speech recognition materials on CD are used widely. Although these materials have significant commercial value, he never derived any personal income from them. His goal was to make them widely available to improve clinical practice in audiology. He also believed strongly in the broad accessibility of our research literature. He obtained permission to compile many of the early research journals onto CD and made them widely available. These are contributions that brought him no benefits other than the satisfaction of making contributions to his profession.
The Jerger Career Award for Research in Audiology could not find a more deserving recipient. Appropriately, when the award is presented, Dr. Wilson will have coauthored an article with Dr. Jerger. He views it as a great honor to be a coauthor with the namesake of the award, and it is a fitting recognition of the level of his contributions to our profession.