Preschool, Teen Programs, Transitioning from High School to College, and the Marion Downs Pediatric Symposium: Interview with Vickie Thomson, PhD
Douglas L. Beck, AuD, spoke with Dr. Thomson about the Marion Downs Centennial Year Gala Event, Marion Downs Pediatric Symposium, and more.
Academy: Hi, Vickie. Thanks for your time.
Thomson: Hi, Doug. Thank you for your interest in the Marion Downs Hearing Center (MDHC)!
Academy: Vickie, would you please tell me a little about your professional background?
Thomson: Absolutely. I've been officially working at the MDHC in Aurora, Colorado, since April 2012. Prior to working at MDHC, I was the director of the Colorado Infant Hearing Program (for some 20 years) at the Colorado Health Department, and I started the first infant hearing screening program in Colorado (with the support and encouragement of Marion Downs). Earlier in my career, I was an audiologist at Boulder Community Hospital.
Academy: Thanks, Vickie. And so in some respects, I might say the MDHC has been evolving in parallel to your professional career for quite a while, now?
Thomson: Well, the MDHC has been a "work in progress" for many years, and admittedly, it gets a little confusing. In 1996, we had a grant to start the Marion Downs National Center, which was originally funded to provide technical assistance to 17 states, with regard to developing statewide newborn hearing screening programs. After that grant had expired and run its course, we decided to keep the idea alive and push forward. Fortunately, in 2001, the University of Colorado Hospital (where Marion practiced until her retirement) agreed to help and to house the MDHC while we gathered money and donations to build our own building. The MDHC Foundation was started in 2005 to accomplish that goal, and so, more-or-less, the MDHC has been in existence since 1996. Of course, as you know, Doug, 2013 is Marion's 99th year, and so we're calling it Marion's Centennial Year Celebration. As you might imagine, we're assembling a gala event in the fall (2013) to celebrate. Additionally, we're planning a symposium in Vail (July 2013) focused on pediatrics.
Academy: I'm sure both events will be fabulous! I should note you serve in two executive capacities at Marion Downs. That is, you're the program director for the hearing center and you also serve as the foundation manager—and in that capacity your role is to raise money to help support the Marion Downs Hearing Center (MDHC). So then, Vickie, I know there's a lot to talk about, so I'll just ask you to describe some of the activities of the MDHC.
Thomson: Thanks, Doug. The MDHC is part of the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. As such, the MDHC offers many programs for deaf or hard-of-hearing (HOH) students, such as the Marion Downs Laboratory Preschool and we offer two teen programs, too. One of the goals of the teen program is to help transition college-bound deaf or HOH teenagers from high school to college. We offer full-day workshops which address multiple topics such as their legal rights as young deaf or hard-of-hearing adults. We also offer information on new and advanced technologies, which often help enhance their communication ability while they're in school and when they participate in the work force, too. We also offer the teens various team-building activities.
Academy: I think you told me one of the team-building activities involves a HOH forest ranger and a zip-line?
Thomson: Yes! We're fortunate in that we have a park right outside the MDHC campus. One of the rangers is indeed hearing impaired, and fortunately, he's one of our patients! He really likes to work with the teens to teach them about the forest, nature and yes—to experience a zip-line and he works them through an obstacle course.
Academy: What a great experience! Hopefully when I visit in the summer I'll get a chance to ride the zip-line! Vickie, seems to me that in 2012, most of the children and young adults you're working with likely have been identified and have benefitted from Colorado's early entry into newborn hearing screenings?
Thomson: That's right. Many of the students we work with were identified as deaf or HOH very early on. As you'd expect secondary to early identification, the majority of them are main-streamed. In fact, some of our students attend class in environments in which they are the only deaf or HOH student in their school.
Academy: Which is very exciting and interesting, but I'll bet these students often find themselves in situations where they really need to be their own advocate.
Thomson: Exactly. And beyond self-advocacy, some still need to develop independent living skills, such as using the "shake awake" alarm clock to make sure they're awake and ready to attend school on time!
Academy: Vickie, I know your time is limited today, and that to really get involved with the multiplicity of activities going on at MDHC, the best thing to do is to visit the Web site, or a site visit. And so, I want to encourage the readers to visit the Web site to learn more about how to donate to the MDHC building fund, how to volunteer, to view and learn about the dozens of milestones and accomplishments, to see the awards, and the amazing ongoing work being accomplished at the MDHC including newborn hearing screenings, collaborative research with the University of Colorado at Boulder, the sign-language program, the preschool and teen programs, the assistive listening devices, multiple family events and so much more.
Thomson: Thanks, Doug. We're really looking forward to the centennial year, and we're hoping to secure significant donations to help fund the building itself, as well as the many goals of the MDHC.
Academy: Thanks for your time, Vickie. It's always a pleasure to chat with you. I wish you and the MDHC all the very best and I'll look forward to the symposium this summer, and the gala in the fall!
Vickie Thomson, PhD, is the program director at the Marion Downs Hearing Center, and the foundation manager for the Marion Downs Hearing Center Foundation.
Douglas L. Beck, AuD, board certified in audiology, is the Web content editor for the American Academy of Audiology.