Bopanna B. Ballachanda, PhD
Adjunct Professor, Texas Tech University
BS: Speech and Hearing, University of Mysore, 1973
MS: Audiology and Hearing Impairment, University of Texas Dallas, 1982
PhD: Audiology and Hearing Impairment, University of Texas Dallas, 1988
Why are you interested in serving on the Academy board?
I want to be innovative and lay the foundation for the future of audiology beyond 2020. My goals include the following:
- Elevate the profession of audiology
- Create a better awareness of the profession of audiology and the professionals to the public
- Improve compensation for our professionals
- Support the educational and research needs in audiology.
My background and experiences in academia (professor at two universities; wrote the first syllabus for AuD), research (auditory neuroscience), professional issues (first to cerumen management and implement teleaudiology), and clinic work (16 clinics and managed a total of 60 staff including 18 audiologists with several million-dollar annual budget) has allowed me to understand the needs of the audiology profession.
I have seen the Academy grow from its infancy to the current status as the leading organization, not only in this country but around the world. I have served the Academy in many capacities as a past and present board of director, trustee of the Academy's Foundation, and chair and member of committees and task forces. I understand the inner workings of the Academy and that has prepared me to be the next leader of this organization.
I understand the delicate nature of leading the profession of audiology in turbulent waters, to achieve the aspirations and goals of our members to be independent, financially secure, and respected by our peers as an independent profession.
What challenges or key issues do you see for the audiology profession in the next five years? What would you hope to accomplish relative to these challenges during your term on the board?
There are several challenges/issues that will influence the course of our profession and shape the landscape of audiology in the next five years. I have been fortunate to serve on the board twice and understand challenges better than others. I will list them and address each challenge, proposing a way to accomplish the desired goal.
- Reimbursement for our professional services from payers: This will be one of the major and foremost issues going forward.
My desired goal is for us to receive compensation on par with other professions similar to audiology. Steps to achieve it:
- Educating our members to complete the survey appropriately when a code is up for re-evaluation.
- Working with AMA, CMS, AAO-HNS, other medical professionals, and private payers to bring forth the changes.
- Change in clinic services: The current model includes the service rendered and the hearing aid/accessories provided to the patient as one ticketed item. In addition, there is a certain amount of apprehension among our members regarding OTC hearing aid sales.
My desired goal is to receive appropriate compensation for the time spent in the clinic and address the concerns about OTC:
The clinic services should be itemized to reflect the time spent and the compensation achieved. At this time OTC issue is speculative but will expand Academy sources to make sure the member concerns are addressed appropriately.
- Shortage of audiologists: the Critical problem we are facing today and in the future is the shortage of audiologists to meet the growing needs of the population for hearing and balance care.
The desired goal: Develop alternative service models such as teleaudiology and use of Audiology Assistants/Technicians. To effectively implement teleaudiology we should be prepared to resolve issues like: billing (codes for telework) and collections, use of audiology assistants/technicians, inclusion of teleaudiolgy as a viable and accepted practice in the State licensure law, cross-state licensure issues, and the reticence of hearing healthcare providers to change their current methods of service delivery. I have been at the forefront of implementing teleaudiology practice in my clinics.
- Financial Stability of the Academy and transparency: It is of paramount importance that the Academy is financially solvent, healthy, and able to carry out many of the ambitious projects. I strongly believe that with challenges come opportunities and that we should look for avenues to generate additional revenue. Another important part is that I will promote transparency of academy's activities.
My desired goal: A financially strong Academy. I see several opportunities to increase revenue. As the president of the Academy, I will be as transparent and keep the members informed of the activities as well as address financial well-being of the Academy.
- Advocacy: This is an ongoing activity, as an organization, we can't wait for the process to take its course of action. Instead, the Academy should constantly watch and monitor the political climate in this country.
My desired goal:
- To ensure that audiology is recognized as an autonomous and independent profession like other health-care professions.
What experience do you have in the planning, evaluation, and implementation of a strategic plan?
Strategy has many definitions but generally involves setting goals, determining actions to achieve the goals, and mobilizing resources to execute the actions. A strategy describes how the ends (goals) will be achieved by the means (resources). I have been in the field of audiology for the past 30 to 40 years as a student, researcher, faculty, clinician, volunteer in professional activities, and administrator/CEO of clinics.
During these years I have had the opportunity to participate in various capacities to plan, evaluate, and implement strategic plans. As a researcher, I was involved in planning research, completing the projects, and finally submitting the findings to publication. As an educator, I mentored PhD and master's degree students in their dissertation and thesis work. I have written two books that require all the qualities and skills required for completing the strategic plan.
As a solo practitioner, I was responsible for the conduct of the clinic and as a CEO/owner of a large audiology practice, I was instrumental in its identifying, evaluating, acquiring clinics, and implementing changes to make these clinics productive and financially strong by identifying sales opportunities. In addition, I have participated in several key decisions to plan, evaluate, and implement strategic plans at AAA.
List any experience in financial management. Describe your experience in developing and implementing a budget for practice, business, department, or organization?
This is an important and excellent question for a possible leader of a prestigious organization such as the American Academy of Audiology. I had mentioned that one of the key components for the president to implement during the time of the presidency is to strengthen the financial status of the Academy. I was the owner one of the largest audiology practices (owned by an audiologist) in this county. I was involved in reviewing and monitoring the financial status of the clinics as a whole on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. The company had 60 employees at one point, requiring me to manage their salaries, benefits, and allocate merit-based raiser on a constant basis.
My past job as director of central operations for Audiology Management Group also requires that I have a budget to work on and that I review the profit and loss sheet. I understand the budgetary process not only on a personal level from my own experiences but also from a professional point of view as a board of director of the American Academy of Audiology and trustee of the American Academy of Audiology Foundation. In addition, I was the representative from AAAF to the AAA audit committee. Along with these experiences, I have reviewed budgets for New Mexico Speech-Language-Hearing Association and other non-profit and religious organization (President of Hindu Temple Society of New Mexico).
Select five competencies you feel best to represent your leadership strengths.
Accountability, Commitment, Decision-making, Leadership Skills, Organizational Knowledge
Based on the five competencies you selected that best represent your leadership strengths, comment on how these qualities would positively affect your ability to serve on the Academy board.
1. Accountability: I recognize accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, decisions, and policies including the administration, governance, and the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences. As the CEO of my company, I was accountable for the final decisions and had to explain to my staff as it affected their livelihood. I will review the accountability within the Academy, and be transparent to members, partners, staff, and the finally the board. I will ensure the principles and practices of ethical accountability are structured within my operational structure.
2. Commitment: I see commitment as the key factor in the well-being of any organization. My past work is a testimonial to my commitment to personal and professional achievements. I have sought opportunities to commit myself to understanding and completing the process. I find it very rewarding to be committed to any work I have undertaken.
3. Decision-making: Decision-making is the process of identifying and choosing alternatives based on the values and preferences of the decision-maker. I clearly understand that major part of decision-making involves the analysis of a finite set of alternatives described in terms of evaluative criteria. My strategy is to find the best alternative when considering all criteria. I will assign the funds to a most needed project that will support the cause of the general membership. In addition, I will assure you that, as the president, I will not bring my personal believes and prejudices, but work for the good of the audiology community.
4. Leadership Skills: I find Proactivity, flexibility, respect, and solid communication are four traits of great leadership. I have practiced the above principles in my professional and personal level. I am proactive and think several steps ahead of a given situation to seek all possible options. This helps me to plan ahead rather than get caught in problems that could have been foreseen and prevented. I am a good listener and will listen for feedback from the board, from committees, and most importantly from the stakeholders like members, industry, and related professions. I respect the members of my organization, and as such, I ensure that the group's work is a collaborative endeavor through mutual respect that creates tangible value, which often produces concrete results.
5. Organizational Knowledge: It is important to understand the complexities that exist in any organization. A clear understanding of hierarchy is essential to delegate and accomplish collaborative work. I have spent many years associating myself in many activities of the Academy and find myself quite knowledgeable about the structure and workings of the Academy. The major difference I can bring is my experience as the current and past board member to incorporate a structure that will further our profession. At present we are going through changes to our structure and I strongly support the changes where the board, council, and committees work toward a common goal for the betterment of our members and the organization.
Collaboration, consensus building, and conflict resolution are three qualities associated with effective leadership. Reflect upon these characteristics and provide your perspective on how each of these traits would be of importance to you as the Academy president.
The three qualities are important attributes of strong and effective leadership.
Collaboration: Collaboration is working with others to do a task and to achieve shared goals. In the current political climate, we cannot work as a single entity to achieve the goals for our members. I see several levels of cooperation that are required to effectively achieve any project(s) or goals. First of all, the board has to work in collaboration with the president's objectives, and, in turn, the president has to acknowledge the direction of the board. The collaboration extends beyond the Academy level and into other organization (s).
Consensus-building: Consensus-building is important in today's interconnected society because many problems exist that affect diverse groups of people with different interests. The process allows various stakeholders to work together to develop a mutually acceptable solution. I find consensus building is important but it is critical that the definition of success is made clear from the beginning of any consensus-building process. I also understand that it is acceptable for a consensus-building effort to settle for an overwhelming agreement that gets as close as possible (not too far from my objectives) to meeting the interests of every stakeholder in our Academy.
Conflict resolution: Dimensions of resolution typically parallel the dimensions of conflict in the way the conflict is processed. Cognitive resolution is the way disputants understand and view the conflict, with beliefs and perspectives and understandings and attitudes. I understand the significance of an organization such as the Academy. Conflicts can arise at any level, but it is important to understand that the resolutions can happen at all levels. The most important conflict resolution that needs to take place is between the Academy and other organizations. I have been involved in resolving conflicts for many years, both between students as a faculty member, and between employees as the CEO of an organization.