In this month's Member Spotlight, meet Kathy Dowd, AuD. She is a Clinical Doctor of Audiology, Executive Director for The Audiology Project in Charlotte, NC.
How did you become involved in diabetes education?
I have been an audiologist for 40 years and love having the ability to help people hear and understand better. In 2011, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with diabetes very late in life. While in conversation with people working in the diabetes field, I realized there wasn’t any available information at the CDC regarding the comorbidity of diabetes, hearing loss, and the risk of falls. In 2012, I joined AADE to learn from individuals treating people with diabetes on the front line – diabetes educators. From there I began to advocate for hearing and balance testing for persons with diabetes.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
During the past year, The Audiology Project began partnering with national professional audiology organizations to develop a white paper about diabetic ear disease. Additionally, we are producing educational materials on audiological management for people with diabetes (Take Charge of Your Diabetes) and for medical and allied health professionals (Working Together to Manage Diabetes: A Guide for Pharmacy, Podiatry, Optometry and Dentistry). We are excited to have the recognition of the CDC on this important project. I have learned so much about the other professions (podiatry, optometry, pharmacy, and dentistry) that we partner with to provide inter-professional education and collaborative care to people with diabetes.
I joined AADE to learn from individuals treating people with diabetes on the front line – diabetes educators. From there I began to advocate for hearing and balance testing for persons with diabetes.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing diabetes educators today?
Diabetes educators are on the front lines of diabetes care. Now that I know more about what diabetes educators do, I can support and raise awareness for their services to my colleagues in audiology and to our patients. The process of learning about diabetes starts with the educator. The educator is the linchpin from which all daily living diabetes education takes place. When people with diabetes come into the audiology clinic for hearing and balance assessments, we ask them if they are connected to a diabetes educator. If not, we make the connection for them to start diabetes education. The Audiology Project hopes to continue working closely with diabetes educators to manage hearing and balance problems caused by diabetes.
How has being an AADE member helped you treat patients?
Hearing loss causes confusion, isolation and depression. Depression also is a concern in diabetes education. When I first became an AADE member, I joined a list serve for people with diabetes to learn about their concerns. That is when I realized the overwhelming job of maintaining one’s health! People described how depressing it was to think they had done everything right, but then have their blood glucose go out of control. I learned to view diabetes not just from an audiology lens, but also from the viewpoint of the person dealing with the disease.
What are some of your interests outside of diabetes education?
My undergraduate degree is in French, and I love staying in touch with a family I worked for in the summer of 1967. At that time, the youngest child in the family was two years old. Now his son, Isaac, is 22 years old, and I found an internship for him at a dairy farm in North Carolina. Additionally, Isaac’s aunt works at a diabetes research hospital in Paris. We have been discussing the issue of hearing and balance; she was completely unaware of this comorbid condition in 2015. I hope to combine business and pleasure with spreading the word about diabetic ear disease to France.
My husband and I have been married for 44 years and we have two grown children. My husband has been very supportive of my work in diabetes and audiology.