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In Memoriam: Marion Downs Legacy Will Live On

In Memoriam: Marion Downs Legacy Will Live On

November 16, 2014 In the News

On Thursday afternoon, November 13, 2014, we learned of the passing of the world’s leading pediatric advocate, Dr. Marion Downs. Marion’s colleague and friend, Dr. Jerry Northern sent the following message to the Academy leadership:

It is with a great sadness for me to let you know that the Mother of Pediatric Audiology, Dr. Marion Downs, passed away early this morning in a peaceful sleep. At 100 years of age, she leaves a legacy that will forever be remembered for her many, many contributions to the field of audiology, the amazing influence she had on so many of us, and the uncountable numbers of children and adults who benefited from her clinical acumen. She lived a full and vibrant life, accomplished so much, made so many friends...she will be missed -- but not forgotten. May she rest in peace....

Dr. Downs was able to embrace the success of her life-long professional dream and her relentless pursuit to make early identification of hearing loss in infants an important medical and educational priority. Her success in bringing the importance of early hearing loss detection and intervention to health policy agencies has resulted in our current national program making newborn hearing screening a reality in every US state and territory and duplicated in several international countries. These state-based Early Hearing Detection and Intervention programs provide a system of services which assures that every child born with a permanent hearing loss is diagnosed before 3 months of age and provided with appropriate intervention before 6 months of age. So impressive is that fact that in 2013 there were nearly 4,000,000 babies born in the United States; and an amazing 97 percent of them were screened for hearing loss prior to discharge from their birthing hospital. 

“Dr. Downs’s impact on the profession of audiology, along with the countless number of children she helped personally and through the legacy of professionals she helped educate is immeasurable,” said Dr. Erin L. Miller, American Academy of Audiology President. “Marion had the will of a gladiator and a zest for life that was unsurpassed.”

Earlier this year, on the verge of her 100th birthday, Marion sat down with Audiology Today content editor Dr. Dave Fabry and American Academy of Audiology Foundation Board member Dr. Jocelyn Martin, to discuss her “Drive and Dedication.” In this interview Marion talked about what she loved most, teaching. She said “You know, to find in a class one mind that you change is the most wonderful feeling in the world. I think that’s the experience that I cherish the most: finding those minds that really relate to you, the work and understand.” No one would argue that Marion Downs made the profession of audiology and the world a better place. She will be missed. Through the children she served and the professionals she taught her legacy lives on.  

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