By: Leigh Ann Reel, AuD, PhD, CCC-A, Vice President of Audiology
That’s not for me. I don’t have time. I’m not a leader. Someone else will do it. Other people are more qualified. I don’t like speaking in front of people. Maybe someday I’ll consider it but not now.
Do these statements sound familiar to you? Have you heard them from other people or even had these thoughts yourself? These are just a few of the answers people give when asked to volunteer for the Texas Speech-Language-Hearing Association (TSHA). I know because these are some of the same thoughts I had when I was first asked to volunteer.
As an introverted audiologist, I felt that volunteering for TSHA was far outside of my comfort zone. However, I knew how important involvement in TSHA and other professional organizations is for our professions and the patients we serve. What I never expected was that my involvement in TSHA would one day lead me to serve as the Vice President of Audiology, but here I am in my first term! How did an introverted audiologist end up so far outside of her comfort zone? Like Garth Brooks, I blame it all on my roots!
As a graduate student, I was “raised” in the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, where professional service through TSHA, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), and other professional organizations is simply the norm. It’s what you do—end of story! I enjoy research, so my mentors encouraged me to start by presenting at the TSHA Convention. It was intimidating at first, but I quickly learned that research and clinical presentations were actually a “safe” way for me to get involved in TSHA. Although public speaking is required, presentations allow you to choose a topic you are comfortable with, and you are not facing the audience alone if you co-present. Although Convention presentations strengthened my resume, I quickly discovered they were rewarding in other ways. I loved sharing information that might benefit others, whether it was with students, professionals, or, ultimately, the patients they serve.
I eventually completed my two doctoral degrees, and for the past eight years, I have worked as an audiology faculty member in the TTUHSC Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences. I continued to present at Convention, but eventually the time came to take the plunge and volunteer. The introverted audiologist in me wanted to stick to my presentations, but as I watched all that my colleagues were doing for our professions through TSHA, I knew I needed to do my part. In our department, this is the peer pressure you have to worry about. I started as the Audiology Strand Chair for the TSHA Convention Programming Committee and later became the co-chair for the Exhibit Hall at Convention. Through these positions, I developed a tremendous respect and appreciation for the countless hours TSHA volunteers devote to planning and running Convention each year. With the largest state speech-language-hearing association convention in the country, it’s a huge undertaking. As a native Texan, I believe everything is bigger and better in Texas, and the TSHA Convention is no exception!
A very important event in my TSHA volunteer journey took place in March 2013. TSHA members voted to support a motion to add a Vice President (VP) of Audiology position to the TSHA Executive Board. TSHA always had represented audiologists and the patients we serve, but this action allowed the needs of audiologists and their patients to be addressed under one specific vice presidency with its own committees. Candace Hicks, one of my TTUHSC colleagues and mentors, bravely took on the position of being the first TSHA VP of Audiology, and she did a wonderful job! I had no intentions of being the next TSHA VP of Audiology, but sometimes doing what is right for the professions and the patients we serve requires you to step outside of your comfort zone. In my case, this was a huge step!
How does my journey relate to you? You may have similar reasons not to volunteer, but being involved is important. Did you know the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced that they will no longer enforce the requirement for medical clearance for amplification in adults? The FDA and other organizations such as the President’s Council on Science and Technology (PCAST) also are opening the way for the approval of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. In addition, there have been recent developments in national and state legislation related to requiring insurances to cover amplification devices and allowing hearing instrument specialists to provide services to veterans. The landscape of audiology is rapidly changing, and audiologists need to be active in the discussions that impact our services and our patients.
The first step is to get involved. Are you ready to take that step? Will you step outside of your comfort zone, even if you don’t feel ready? Trust me, I know the feeling! The co-chairs of the Audiology Advisory Committee, Kathy Everson and George Whitaker, know that feeling too! With no previous TSHA volunteer experience, they stepped outside of their comfort zones to become the first co-chairs of the Audiology Advisory Committee. Together, we are working to address issues that are important to audiologists and our patients, but we cannot do it alone. Whether you are a student, recent graduate, or experienced professional, we need your help. The time has come to step outside of your comfort zone and join us. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about the many ways you can get involved. I look forward to hearing from you!
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