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MSHA Audiology Award - Meredith Braza

17 Mar 2023 4:25 PM | Barbara Wilson Arboleda (Administrator)

My fascination with audiology began while volunteering in high school and college at a local hospital where I observed professionals in the NICU attend to babies with complex medical and neurodevelopmental conditions. In this setting, I became enthralled by the role of the audiologists in considering risk factors for deafness, engaging in interprofessional collaboration, and advocating for access to communication. I was captivated by hearing science, auditory development, and most importantly, emotional support for families in the early stages of their child’s development. 

I will never forget the distress one couple experienced following a restless morning of auditory brainstem response testing when they learned their baby was profoundly deaf. A flurry of emotions lingered in the space as the couple frenziedly asked questions and began generating a new perception of their child’s life outcomes. I desperately yearned to console the couple. How could I one day assure each family that they should have no lower expectations for the future despite their baby’s hearing status? 

The empathy the audiologist exhibited in this moment was inspiring. She gave the family space for processing, focused on the emotions present in the room, and shared options for next steps—devoid of audism biases—once the caregivers were ready. Such observation solidified my decision to become an audiologist so I could assess auditory development of infants and children while continuing to support parent-child relationships in the most critical attachment period.

Throughout my graduate training at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, my clinical externship at Boston Children’s Hospital, and my current clinical work at Mass Eye and Ear, I have become increasingly passionate about providing clinical care at the top of my scope of practice to not only pediatric patients, but to patients across the entire lifespan. I have become aware of ways to create welcoming space for those feeling anxious, isolated, and vulnerable, especially during this pandemic which has amplified so many disparities in care. I have gleaned the value of checking my own biases and have been challenged to continuously adapt testing methods for each patient, particularly those with unique physical, cognitive, and developmental abilities. I have learned to celebrate all successes with patients and families—big and small—to leave them feeling empowered. In my clinical work, I continuously seek to prioritize my patients’ values and goals to create the best plan for them, and to make my care accessible linguistically, culturally, and developmentally. 

Upon entering the field as a new graduate in the wake of over-the-counter hearing aid legislation and the increasing integration of a public health model into audiology, I discovered my potential to contribute to our field beyond striving to be an excellent clinician. I have supplemented my clinical work at Mass Eye and Ear by getting involved in initiatives I care about and which directly affect my patients. I serve on the Massachusetts Congenital Cytomegalovirus Coalition team through which I help draft and file comprehensive legislation in Massachusetts mandating education and universal testing for congenital cytomegalovirus. I also provide tracking and measurement guidance for the Massachusetts Initiative to Improve Healthcare Transition for Individuals with Neurodevelopmental Disabilities, a multi-stage quality improvement project with the goal of better integrating young adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities into adult medical care. Through these projects, I have realized the importance of operating outside an audiology bubble. Viewing my work through an interprofessional lens has allowed me to educate others about the importance of hearing health care while learning ways to maximize my clinical role.  

In the transition from school to my career, I have sought out ways to share my experiences educationally. Through my part-time role as a Technical Assistance and Engagement Consultant with the Association of University Centers on Disability, I assist in the development of webinars and resources for Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities audiology trainees. This work has allowed me to provide mentorship to graduate students and remain informed about current research relevant to my clinical practice. 

As I continue in my career, I seek to continue applying my knowledge of audiology to public health with the goal of allowing all patients to benefit from evidence-based, unbiased, culturally sensitive audiologic care. In this ever-changing field, I am motivated to be a leader who advocates for my patients’ progress and our momentum as a doctoring profession. And most of all, I strive to emulate the audiologists’ compassion and expertise which inspired me to go into this field.

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The Massachusetts Speech-Language-Hearing Association will be recognized as an authority and resource in the fields of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology by legislative bodies, related professional associations and consumers.

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