Christopher Spankovich, AuD, PhD

Christopher Spankovich, AuD, PhD

Associate Professor and Vice Chair of Research
University of Mississippi Medical Center


Christopher Spankovich, AuD, PhD, MPH, is an associate professor and vice chair of research for the Department of Otolaryngology and Communicative Sciences at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He obtained his BA in psychology from University of North Carolina at Wilmington, MPH in behavioral science and health education from Emory University, AuD from Rush University, and PhD in hearing sciences from Vanderbilt University.

Dr. Spankovich is a clinician-scientist with a translational research program focused on prevention of acquired forms of hearing loss, tinnitus, and sound sensitivity. His research includes clinical trials of otoprotectants, epidemiological studies of determinants (e.g., dietary quality) of hearing loss/tinnitus, basic research in thermal stress for prevention of ototoxicity, and translational research on the effects of noise on auditory physiology/perception. His research has been funded by industry, federal, and professional bodies. He has published over 60 articles and book chapters (40 in peer-reviewed journals) and has given over 60 national and international presentations.

Dr. Spankovich continues to practice clinically with special interest in tinnitus, sound sensitivity, ototoxicity, hearing conservation, and advanced diagnostics. He holds Adjunct faculty status with Salus University and Nova Southeastern University and serves as an associate editor for Audiology Today and the International Journal of Audiology. He is currently a member of the PPAC for the Academy. He also provides consultant services for medico-legal cases.

Nominee Position Statement

Why are you interested in serving on the Academy Board?

We are in a critical time for the future of audiology and I want to help. It is easy to sit on the sideline, but I would rather be in the trenches and try to contribute to solutions. We cannot become stagnant as a profession and must vigorously pursue advanced standards of practice (how and what we do) in the evaluation and management of hearing loss and balance disorders. For example, technology has allowed for significant advancements in diagnostics, amplification, and implantable devices which allow for more personalized management. We must be leaders on these advances.

However, technology also brings challenges such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) that may negate some of the routine clinical practices of today. All areas of healthcare are susceptible to these changes. Advanced imaging integration with electronic medical records may predict or even diagnose disease replacing the function of a radiologist. Advanced robotics with near perfect precision could replace the hands of a surgeon. Yet, these technologies will never replace the words of encouragement, empathy, and human touch. Hearing loss and balance dysfunction disrupts the connection and enjoyment of human interaction.

With foresight and focus on best practices, audiology will be enhanced by AI, not replaced. But, we must continuously advocate for our unique skills and define our role in these pursuits. I hope during my time on the board to help navigate these challenging times and help shape what the future of audiology can be.

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? 

The advancement of audiology is dependent on multiple factors, I will take this opportunity to highlight three challenges which underscore my interest in serving on the Academy Board. First, internal consensus; internal consensus is indicative of concord among the members of a profession in regards to goals and objectives. This has been a challenging issue for the field of audiology for many decades with multiple organizations representing the profession without a unified vision. Nonetheless, internal consensus does not negate the need for debate, even passionate debate, but it does sometimes call for compromise to achieve the next step.

Change rarely happens all at once, rather it is a series of premeditated actions that lead to advancement. I have found often communication is the ultimate key to internal consensus and feel my background and problem-solving approaches will contribute to this critical factor. The second factor is legitimacy, an external factor based on respect of a profession’s authority and deference from other professions. Our legitimacy as the experts in hearing and balance is an ongoing process. The rigor of our training, standards of our practice, and advocacy we demonstrate for our profession underlie our legitimacy from the perspective of external stakeholders.

My goal for our profession is to see continual increase in our external legitimacy through advocacy in education reform and defining our role in the future of hearing and balance health care. These two factors are not independent, a lack of internal consensus manifests in a diluted voice, which leads to compromised external legitimacy. Third, reliance on reactive problem solving is a challenge. We cannot always predict the future, but we can make decisions today that can help shape our future. The ability to solve problems as they manifest is important, but so is anticipating them before they happen. I don't have a crystal ball, but feel I can contribute to a vision to allow us to be more proactive in our processes. I hope by serving on the Academy Board that I can elevate my contributions to further developing these key factors.

What experience do you have in the planning, evaluation, and implementation of a strategic plan?

I have gained both didactic and hands on experience in strategic planning at variable phases of strategic plan development, implementation, and evaluation. My initial experience was a course in needs assessment and strategic planning during my Masters of Public Health training at Emory University. Looking back this was a good first exposure to understanding the function of a strategic plan, importance of stakeholder input, and working with peers to generate a strategic plan while having the guidance from a nationally recognized expert in design of public health competencies (Kathleen Miner, PhD).

My subsequent experiences with strategic planning included my roles as national vice president of the National Association of Future Doctors of Audiology (NAFDA), faculty member at the University of Florida, and faculty member at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC). This includes experience with SWOT analysis, developing SMART goals, etc. For example, I am currently leading efforts in starting a new doctor of audiology program at UMMC. As part of the program proposal I have led our team in completing a needs assessment, acquiring stakeholder input, and devising a strategic plan. This proposal and plan went through numerous departmental, school (graduate school), institutional (UMMC/UM), and state (Institute of Higher Learning) approval steps (all approved) and is currently part of our accreditation application. Through these experiences I feel competent in the strategic plan process.

List any experience in financial management. Describe your experience in developing and implementing a budget for a practice, business, department, or organization. 

During the early phase of my career, my primary experience with financial management was primarily development and oversight of research grant budgets (this continues to be an important part of my financial practices). As a junior faculty member at the University of Florida I began to gain some knowledge and experience with departmental budget considerations. But, my experience with financial management was significantly elevated by my current role at UMMC as the vice chair of research for the Department of Otolaryngology and Communicative Sciences. Having a leadership role in the department led to a crash course in interpreting financial statements, making decisions on funding allocations for the research mission, and staying on budget targets.

To better inform myself I did two things, (1) I went back to school and (2) I asked for mentorship. In 2015 I completed a masters of business (MBA) Certificate in the Else School of Management at Millsaps College. The MBA certificate was a 16 week long 6-9 hrs per week of in person lectures. The program covered accounting, economics, marketing, finance, supply chain, leadership, and strategic management. The program was a great experience and substantially improved my work and personal financial management knowledge. This experience was further enhanced by working closely with our department business administrator and department chair, who have both been wonderful mentors on the financial elements of our clinical, research, and educational operations.

From the list below, select three competencies you feel best represent your leadership strengths:

Commitment, Communication Skills, Problem Solving

Based on the three competencies selected above, comment on how you feel these qualities would positively affect your ability to serve on the Academy Board. 

Commitment is critical to carrying out a strategic vision. Change does not come without challenges. Commitment and resiliency are necessary characteristics. We have our fair share of doomsayer/chicken little mentality in our field; I am the antithesis of this attitude. That being said I am grounded in reality and aware of our challenges as a profession, I just choose to focus on how we can overcome these challenges. For example, a significant portion of my effort is dedicated to research. Back in 2012, I came up with an idea to prevent ototoxicity. The approach is very simple idea based in hypothermia literature and application of a modified vestibular caloric. Between the years 2011-2013 I submitted multiple grants (actually 4) for this line or work that went unfunded. I happened to have some start-up money and spent the next year often on the weekends obtaining proof of concept data. I was very enthused when my early results showed significant protection. I excitedly submitted a new round of grants, now supported by strong preliminary evidence. From 2014-2016, I submitted 4 more grants, all went unfunded. However, I did not give up, published my seminal findings and finally received grant support in 2017. In short, I can commit, and I am committed to the future of audiology and the Academy. 

Communication is a cornerstone of our profession; it also still tends to be an always present challenge. Communication is a two-way process and listening is, in my opinion, the most important part of communication. I have my own opinions, experiences, and perspectives, but I can promise I am always open to discussion and learning from the opinions, experiences, and perspectives of others.

We can be a little niche in the world of audiology, I would like to say may niche in leadership is problem solving, but really, it is what I would like to be my strength and something I try to improve upon in both my professional and personal world. I have a very rational approach to problem solving using an evidence-based approach similar to how I approach my clinical or research work. However, I also recognize that problems often include emotions and are not always rationale (my clinical practice is primarily focused on tinnitus and sound sensitivity patients). I think what strengthens my problem- solving capacity is my other two competencies of commitment and communication, both of which go a long way in developing compromise and solutions. I also think problem solving can be hindered by the need to be the one to solve the problem. To quote Emerson, “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.” 

I hope through my commitment, communication skills, and problem solving that I can help contribute meaningful input to the Academy Board.