Quota South Pacific Area Scholarship
In 1980, renowned Australian speech pathologist Sheila Drummond, Past 38th District Governor, convinced South Pacific Area Quota members to pool resources and establish a generous bursary program for speech and hearing-related study. The SPA Scholarship has grown into a major awards program that has benefited more than 40 scholars from Australia and New Zealand, including one who has pioneered a new method for infant hearing screening.
The QUOTA SPA Scholarship is valued at $7,000.00. The Sheila Drummond Bursary is to the value of $4,000.00. (When we award the QSPAScholarship/s, the second scholarship shall be known as the Sheila Drummond Bursary)
Kirsty Gardner-Berry received SPA Scholarships to complete Master’s research and to attend a conference in Milan in the area of newborn hearing screening. “It was through these two experiences that I developed a sense that many professionals around the world were having difficulty accessing diagnostic services,” Kirsty said.
Kirsty was working when she came up with an idea to address the global issue. “One day, the hospital IT department helped me with some computer problems I was having,” she explained. “When I saw them take over the mouse icon and, from another building, manipulate the computer settings on my screen, I thought the software they used might help me develop telemedicine for audiology.”
Kirsty contacted companies that she dealt with as a hospital neonatal audiologist and shared her idea. They loaded software onto her infant hearing screening equipment, and Kirsty ran ground-breaking tests in “virtual audiology,” a concept she recently presented at a worldwide conference in Italy.
“One of the biggest problems around the world is that there are not many audiologists skilled in neonatal work. This means that babies in rural areas have to travel long distances to diagnostic clinics, and even some babies in metropolitan areas have to make lengthy trips across town,” Kirsty said.
“When services are limited, hospitals may not screen babies for hearing loss at all because they have nowhere to send the ones who fail or parents may decide that it's not important enough to leave their home for a day or so to get thorough follow-up tests at the nearest facility. This increases the risk of late diagnosis for hearing loss.”
Telemedicine, or virtual audiology, makes diagnostic testing possible in remote locations worldwide. A clinic supplies equipment to country sites and teaches staff how to prepare babies for testing that experienced audiologists run over the Internet. In addition, audiologists can be trained on-line and can ask other audiologists for second opinions by e-mail. “The possibilities are endless!” Kirsty added.
Kirsty now works for the Department of Health in New South Wales, where Quota clubs recently helped convince lawmakers to mandate universal infant hearing screeningthe first such law in Australia. In implementing the new policy, Kirsty is working to find a way to include a pilot program in virtual audiologyan idea that has come of age in the 21st Century through the future-oriented investment of energy, time, and funding among South Pacific Area Quota International volunteers.
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