Thursday, September 30, 2010

Catherine V. Palmer - getting some ink in the UMass Alumni Magazine

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Catherine V. Palmer

Catherin V. Palmer, BS Communication Disorders, '84 Director of the AuD program in the Department of Communication Science and Disorders, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Pittsburgh.

Tell us briefly who you are.

Catherine V. Palmer, PhD. I am an associate professor and director of the AuD program in the Department of Communication Science and Disorders, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Pittsburgh. I am also an associate professor in the Department of Otolaryngology in the School of Medicine and serve as the director of the Audiology and Hearing Aid Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. This includes clinical work and overseeing the operations of the main clinic and six satellite clinics. I graduated with a BA (Education) and BS (Communication Disorders) from the University of Massachusetts in 1984.

What is your most memorable moment at UMass?

My most memorable moments are all related to the wonderful experience of living in the Butterfield Dorm and the friends that I had there including my best friend, Pat Vaillancourt ’84 (now Pat Quill) who also was in the Communication Disorders program. My brother, Bob Palmer, was in charge of the in-house food services in the dorm for my last couple of years and that was great as well. I also participated in the synchronized swimming club and had a good time choreographing and performing routines. I also participated in the summer program at Oxford University which was a terrific experience in terms of travel and education.

Describe your professional career for us.

I spent the last semester of my time at UMass teaching 3rd grade on an Indian Reservation in Taos, NM. This was a wonderful experience and although I already knew I would be going back to graduate school for audiology, this teaching experience has impacted how I teach as a college professor. I attended Northwestern University for my Master’s degree and then spent two years at the Long Beach (California) VA practicing as an audiologist and a research assistant. I returned to Northwestern for my PhD and upon completion joined the University of Pittsburgh in 1990. My job as a professor at the University of Pittsburgh includes teaching and research and expanded greatly in 1998 when I took over as the director of Audiology for the medical center. The combination of responsibilities is wonderful with the clinical practice informing both my research program and teaching and my research impacting my teaching and clinical practice as well. I was honored to serve on the board of the American Academy of Audiology and currently serve on the Board of the DePaul School for Hearing and Speech. I am the Editor-in-Chief of Seminars in Hearing as well. I created the Musicians' Hearing Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in 2003 and enjoy working with musicians and providing hearing protection to all ages of musicians to ensure that they can participate safely in this activity for a life time.

How did the SPHHS help you prepare for your career?

I enjoyed every moment of my time at UMass and in the Department of Communication Disorders. The department gave me a sense of connection in what is a very large University. This allowed me to have a safe haven as I explored all that UMass had to offer. Jay Melrose was my advisor and I always had the sense that he really cared about how I did and what happened to me. The other faculty members were supportive and challenging and presented lots of opportunities for involvement (I remember interesting research with Dr. Harry Seymour and a great trip to my first American Speech Language Hearing Association meeting at the urging of the faculty). With encouragement from Rich Freyman, I presented my first research paper at a national conference in my senior year. This gave me a sense of interest in research and the comfort to interact at a research meeting. I feel very fortunate to continue to interact with the UMass Communication Disorders faculty who I knew as a student; and my good friend, Karen Helfer, who completed her PhD at Northwestern University at the same time I did, joined the faculty as well. UMass continues to have a tremendous group of individuals in the Communication Disorders Department.

What do you think the future holds in store for professionals in the field of Public Health and/or Health Sciences?

There is a tremendous need for services from audiologists across the life span. We are seeing a shift to a focus on quality of life in health care and audiologists will play an essential role in this area. Individuals are more aware than ever that they need to protect their hearing and that they need to do something about hearing loss if it has occurred because it impacts communication thereby cutting them off from people and activities that they care about. The research and technology that audiologists now have access to allow us to do more than we've ever been able to do before. It is exciting for us and the people we serve.

Is there anything else that you would like us to know about you?

When I arrived at the University of Pittsburgh, the first person I met was Elaine Mormer ’79, ’81G (previously Rosenthal). Elaine graduated from the UMass graduate program in audiology just as I was finishing my undergraduate degree there, but our paths had never crossed. She had single-handedly kept the program at Pitt going and she was ready to do big things once a faculty was in place. We (as a group) have done big things and now have an excellent, thriving audiology AuD and PhD program. We sometimes get students who have completed their undergraduate work at UMass and that is always a treat (and they are always well prepared). The highlight of my work is taking on new projects with Elaine and seeing what we can accomplish - it is a true blessing to have a colleague like Elaine and our backgrounds and work ethic are very similar partly due to UMass.

I got married to Mark Rauterkus a couple of months after arriving in Pittsburgh. We now have two delightful boys (Grant, 12 and Erik, 15). We have lived in the same house for 20 years and have the good fortune of having Mark's parents and my mother living in the Pittsburgh area. My career has afforded us the opportunity to travel around the world with our boys as I have been invited to teach and lecture and Mark's career as a swim and water polo coach has allowed them to join teams and make friends around the world.

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