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Student Academy of Audiology (SAA), Special Olympics, and More: Interview with Kari Morgenstein

Student Academy of Audiology (SAA), Special Olympics, and More: Interview with Kari Morgenstein

August 25, 2011 In the News

Douglas L. Beck, AuD, speaks with Kari about the SAA’s initiatives for this year, her role as president of the SAA, and her recent trip to Athens, Greece, in support of the Special Olympics Hearing Health Program.

Academy:             Good morning, Kari. It’s nice to meet you. Congratulations on your presidency, which started July 1, 2011.

Morgenstein:        Thanks, Dr. Beck. Always nice to meet a fellow “Gator.”

Academy:              Indeed! Kari, just to be sure I understand the sequence, for the last year, you’ve been on the SAA Board of Directors as the chair of the SAA AudiologyNOW! Planning Committee (now called SAA Programs Subcommittee) and the SAA Advocacy Committee, and now you’re the president and next year you’ll serve on the SAA Board as the past-president?

Morgenstein:        Exactly. And so I’m actually the fourth president of the relatively new SAA. I’ve got some tough acts to follow thanks to Brian Vesely, Virginia Best, and Ryan Bullock!

Academy:              Kari, please tell me your goals for the next 12 months as president of SAA?

Morgenstein:        There are a number of goals. Of course, I want to continue to push forward the agenda items that were initiated in the past year to bring those projects to fruition. Additionally, one of the goals of the 2011-2012 SAA Board of Directors is to reinforce and solidify the connections between the national and local SAA organizations. Strengthening the connections between the national and local SAA organizations is essential and is a top priority for the board this year. It’s a two-way street and we look forward to working more closely with the local chapters.

Another goal is to push toward a more consistent academic and clinical experience for the students across all the AuD programs, so we have a uniform foundation. One more key goal is to push forward the SAA Advocacy Committee. The SAA Advocacy Committee serves to promote audiology for the benefit of AuD students, audiologists, and most importantly our patients, through coordinated efforts including and beyond marketing the profession. So, in addition to helping spread the word about audiology to the colleges, universities, high schools and patients, the Advocacy Committee will focus their efforts on various political initiatives, such as Direct Access—which I know you’ve been involved with!

Academy:              Absolutely. Direct Access is to me, the single most important political issue for the profession at the moment, and I think we really have to get on the bandwagon to fight the misinformation and dis-information, which some groups appear to be intentionally spreading for their self-interests. But this is your interview, so rather than going into my thoughts on Direct Access, we’ll just link to the Academy interview with President Therese Walden.

Kari, just to clarify, the local SAA chapters are not state-by-state organizations, they’re actually “university-by-university,” is that right?

Morgenstein:        Right. For example in Florida, there are three universities with AuD programs and each school has their own SAA chapter. As you’ve probably noticed, each chapter runs their organization as best meets their needs, and so they can be quite different with regard to their goals, organization structure and activities.

Academy:              How many SAA members are there?

Morgenstein:        We have about 1,300 SAA members and 56 chapters and on the national level, we have 8 SAA committees. Students interested in learning more or getting involved with a national committee can visit the SAA home page.

Academy:              So considering there are 73 AuD programs/consortia in the United States, you guys have had an enormously successful outreach program in less than one year—congratulations! What are the issues you’re facing in getting the last dozen or so chapters to kick it into gear?

Morgenstein:        That’s a great question. We think there are likely a few AuD programs that simply don’t know how to contact us to initiate their chapter, and maybe there are some programs who don’t feel the need to change or find out more about the SAA, what it is, what it does and how it benefits the students.

Academy:              Fair enough, and so for the dozen or so “yet-to-be-created” SAA chapters, I guess they can simply contact you to get the ball rolling?

Morgenstein:        Absolutely. They can contact me but it’s best to contact Stephanie O’Bryan. Stephanie is the chair of the SAA Chapter Relations Committee, or they can contact Ed Sullivan, deputy executive director for the American Academy of Audiology. Ed is our staff liaison, and he would also be able to help connect the dots.

Academy:              Lastly, Kari, please tell me about your recent involvement with the Special Olympics World Summer Games (SOWG) in Athens, Greece? I know the Hearing section is one of seven medical disciplines that make up the Special Olympics “Healthy Athletes” program

and all seven disciplines (vision, hearing, dental, healthy lifestyles, general fitness, podiatry and sports medicine) contribute volunteers for screening and other support purposes. What a fabulous opportunity that must’ve been for you!

Morgenstein:        Sure. Being at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Greece was a remarkable experience both for the SAA organization and for me, personally. I was able to volunteer and participate for a week in June 2011, as a delegate from the SAA Board of Directors. Thank you to the AAA Foundation and the University of Florida who helped make this trip possible!

Our group of volunteers screened more than 1,200 athletes in the first six days of screening and we fit 21 Phonak hearing aids. The Healthy Hearing venue at the World Summer Games was run entirely by volunteers and it was exciting to observe so many people coming together to support the Special Olympians! I was also surprised to learn that so many people with intellectual disabilities from around the world, were and are so grossly underserved with regard to hearing health care. In fact, about one-third of the athletes failed their hearing screenings. I was truly honored to be able to represent the SAA and hope to continue to develop the SAA/Special Olympics relationship even more this year!

Academy:              How do readers learn more about the Special Olympics?

Morgenstein:        The Web site is or they can send an e-mail to Nicole Corbin, as she’s currently serving as the chair of the SAA Humanitarian Committee.

Academy:              Thanks, Kari. It’s a real pleasure to chat with you and I wish you all the best in your new role as president of the SAA and I’ll look forward to watching as you and the SAA progress.

Morgenstein:        Thanks, Dr. Beck. The 2011-2012 SAA Board is already hard at work and we look forward to an exciting year.

Kari Morgenstein is a AuD student at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and the president of the Student Academy of Audiology.

Douglas L. Beck, AuD, Board Certified in Audiology, is the Web content editor for the American Academy of Audiology.

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