Catherine Palmer, PhD

Catherine Palmer, PhD


Video Statement

Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh

BS: Communication Sciences and Disorders/Education, University of Massachusetts, 1984
MS: Audiology and Hearing Impairment, Northwestern University, 1985
PhD: Audiology and Hearing Impairment, Northwestern University, 1991

Why are you interested in serving on the Academy board?

I have dedicated my professional life to serving individuals with communication challenges related to hearing loss. I have been fortunate to do this through direct clinical care, educating future audiologists, providing continuing education, providing professional service, and adding to our knowledge base through research. Patients with hearing loss and balance disorders deserve to have access to experts in communication and balance; those experts are audiologists.

I believe that being involved in national leadership will provide me with an opportunity to use my skill set to not only help our profession position itself for changes that are coming but making sure we chart our course, keeping what is best for individuals with hearing loss and balance disorders at the forefront of our decision-making. The Academy Board provides the leadership for the profession of audiology and is the voice of audiology to a myriad of stakeholders. I would welcome the opportunity to be part of this leadership and to work with the board and the entire membership to move towards our preferred future of accessible, affordable, best-practice-based hearing and balance care.

Given the opportunity to provide leadership as an AAA Board Member, I will work tirelessly to ensure that audiologists are viewed as leaders in the prevention, assessment, and treatment of hearing and balance disorders.

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?

Anyone involved in healthcare is feeling challenges currently and knows that just when you've adjusted to the latest challenges a new set is likely to arrive. With that said, audiologists are seeing what may feel like an uncertain future because of changes related to FDA regulation of hearing instruments.

Other audiologists involved in balance care see challenges as other practitioners continue to position themselves to practice within our scope. Without exception, in my opinion, these challenges will all be met through evaluating and recreating how we practice and how we position ourselves in the health-care arena.

If done thoughtfully, I believe the profession of audiology will come out of this time of change stronger and better able to position itself as an expert in areas that no one else is expert in. Practicing across our scope and to the highest level of our scope will be essential to our ability to have a strong profession that can serve the individuals who need our care. As a group, we need to become a doctoral level profession with all that it means to practice at the doctoral level—autonomy, responsibility, and supervision, using support personnel to extend our services where appropriate.

We need to get out of the booth and attack the impact of hearing loss and balance issues on health outcomes when hearing loss and balance are not the patient's or health-care providers primary concern. By moving out of our clinics, we become the experts that other health-care providers turn to when there are hearing and balance issues. In some cases, we will serve as coordinators of large programs with assistants providing services where appropriate. In other cases, we will provide direct patient care because we are the people qualified to provide evidence-based care in treating hearing and balance disorders across settings.

There are compelling data that under-recognized and under-treated hearing loss and balance issues have a negative impact on health outcomes. We need to focus our profession's energy on collecting the compelling data that by treating these hearing and balance issues under the direct supervision or care of an audiologist, health outcomes are impacted positively. These data do not currently exist and are essential to the health of our profession. The Academy Leadership can and should have an impact on setting the research agenda that will benefit our patients. The Academy needs to continue to partner with our educational colleagues to make sure our future audiologists are ready to enter this demanding, changing, exciting landscape that is hearing and balance care. And we need creative solutions to make sure new audiologists can join our profession without suffocating under an unreasonable and unmanageable debt load.

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

I have been fortunate to participate in several organizations when strategic plans were being formed, carried out, or revised. My earliest work in strategic planning was at the University of Pittsburgh, and that work continues today. This has allowed me to witness the evolution of strategic plans in the past 30 years. Today, strategic plans serve as a basis upon which one can evaluate new proposals/initiatives, but they also are more fluid than ever before acknowledging the fast-paced change that may occur. An ideal strategic plan flows from the organization's vision and mission statement and allows the leadership to have a common benchmark for evaluating current and new initiatives.

I was a board member for the DePaul School for Hearing and Speech from 2001-2016 and participated in the evolution of what could be considered a non-existent strategic plan to a sophisticated strategic plan that guides the school. A well-constructed strategic plan can help focus a board and reduce tensions as decisions are made. I participated in the formulation of an updated strategic plan when I served on the AAA Board (2001-2004) and was impressed by the collaborative process that was used that involved a number of stakeholders. The Preferred Futures document that the Academy now promotes provides a clear vision and road map of where the Academy needs to go to be the preferred provider of hearing and balance care whether through the eyes of a patient, another health-care provider, or a policy-maker.

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

I am the director of audiology for the UPMC Integrated Health System. In that capacity, I currently direct the operations of 21 clinics and oversee 46 audiologists. This puts me directly in charge of the budget for this entire endeavor with the responsibility of managing resources and meeting budget projections. I have developed and implemented this budget successfully (always operating at a gain or ahead of target) for the past 20 years.

As a board member of the Pennsylvania Academy of Audiology, I was involved in the original budget of that organization, and I had fiduciary responsibilities as the vice president of the Board of the DePaul School for Speech and Hearing. Like all AAA Board members, I also had fiduciary responsibilities when I served on the board (2001-2004). I plan and oversee the budgets related to my research grants and have been doing this since 1990.

Select five competencies you feel best to represent your leadership strengths.

Accountability, Communication Skills, Confidentiality, Leadership Skills, Problem Solving

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.

It is very difficult to separate the competencies supplied in the list above. One would hope that a leader has all of these attributes to some extent. Accountability is essential in all aspects of life but especially so for someone who is given the privilege of representing others in matters that are critical to their livelihood. Accountability means accepting responsibility for one's words and actions. I believe my dedication to accountability not only means I accept responsibility, but it means I'm thoughtful with my words and actions. Anyone who knows me will say that I am direct in my communication style. I believe my communication style allows me to assist others in moving forward without doubt about any hidden agenda. The ability to communicate accurately and succinctly to many different stakeholders is essential to the Academy President. Confidentiality is the cornerstone to trust, and I have a track record of respecting confidentiality. With that said, confidentiality has to do with individuals, not membership organizations. We need to make sure our Academy is appropriately transparent so the membership can participate and not feel disenfranchised.

I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to hone my leadership skills in a number of venues over the past 30 years including directing the AuD program at the University of Pittsburgh, directing an active research laboratory, and directing a large audiology clinic; all of which I continue to do today. I mention these different areas because I believe they speak to the fact that I can provide valuable leadership to diverse groups of people transcending work settings. I greatly appreciate the diversity of the individuals and groups I have the privilege of interacting with on a day-to-day basis. I believe problem-solving is the greatest asset I would bring to this position. I follow a simple motto, borrowed from my father, "fix the problem, not the blame." This simple phrase allows me to move toward solutions rapidly and it allows others to let go of blame and move forward as well. We are in a time that we need to not only look for solutions but create our best solutions, and there is no time or need for blame. We are in a position to create a new future.

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.

Collaboration, consensus building, and conflict resolution are inseparable. Without collaboration, there cannot be consensus building. Conflicts do not resolve without consensus building. In many instances, I believe an excellent leader can identify that there is not truly a conflict to resolve, but rather different ways of viewing an issue. Respecting divergent views goes a long way to collaboration and ultimately consensus building. The most direct way to collaborate, build consensus, and resolve conflicts that may come up in our Academy (profession) is to keep our focus on our primary stakeholder—the individual with hearing or balance challenges and their families.

Our focus on professionals, students, and policy-makers all has to be in the context of doing what is best for our patients. It is best to collaborate, build consensus, and resolve conflicts to focus on ensuring that patients have access to the best hearing and balance care. This means we need the best educational programs, the best students, the best graduates, the best professionals, and policymakers that understand what we bring to hearing and balance care. Keeping our focus on the patients who need our care is a way to focus our energy and move our profession forward.