The Gebbie Clinics: A living laboratory where students learn from clients
For more than 30 years, Syracuse University students have been learning from Douglas Church. The Baldwinsville resident was among the first clients of the Gebbie Speech-Language-Hearing Clinics, the training facility that is part of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CS&D) in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences.
Located at 805 University Ave., the Gebbie Clinics offers a full-range of diagnostic, therapy and treatment options for children and adults with speech-language and hearing difficulties. During Church’s most recent visit to the Gebbie Audiology Clinic, Allison Soll, a senior in The College of Arts and Sciences, evaluated his hearing under the supervision of Audiology Clinic Director Joseph Pellegrino.
“I enjoy working with the students,” Church says. “They learn by asking me questions, and I try to help them understand how to work with people who have hearing problems-like don’t talk too fast and face the person when you are speaking.”
Church lost all hearing in his left ear after a series of surgeries to remove an acoustic neuroma, a non-malignant tumor of the auditory nerve. He became a client of the Gebbie Clinics after his final surgery in 1970. He has progressive hearing loss in the right ear and wears a hearing aid. Soll completed a series of diagnostic tests on Church during his March visit to determine whether his hearing had deteriorated and to evaluate the effectiveness of his hearing aid so his treatment could be adjusted.
The 78-year-old Church has been through the tests so many times that he can gently lead students through the steps. “I was a student instructor at Cornell University back in the 1950s,” he says. “Later, as a farm machinery dealer, I taught many farmers how to do things; and now I teach students at the clinic. I appreciate teaching. I should have been a teacher.” Church graduated from Cornell in 1952 with a degree in agricultural engineering.
SU’s undergraduate program in communication sciences and disorders prepares students for graduate-level professional training in either speech-language pathology or audiology. CS&D also offers master’s and Ph.D. programs in speech-language pathology and a doctor of audiology program. Graduate and undergraduate students work at the Gebbie Clinics under the direct supervision of speech-language pathologists and audiologists licensed by the New York State Department of Education and certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
“The Gebbie Clinics is a living, learning laboratory where students interact with clients and clients become interested in the students,” Pellegrino says. “Our clients are very patient with us.”
Soll says the opportunity to work at the Gebbie Clinics as part of the CS&D program drew her to SU. “This program gives students a lot of opportunities to apply what we learn in the classroom to a real-world setting, which a lot of schools don’t offer,” she says. “When you can actually see the things you are learning about in class, it all just clicks. It’s a better way to learn.” Soll plans to pursue a graduate degree in audiology.
Students majoring in communication sciences and disorders also have opportunities to work in faculty research labs. Soll worked with assistant professor Kathy Vander Werff researching speech-evoked auditory brain stem responses. “My research experience allowed me to gain in-depth knowledge that I would not have obtained in my classes,” Soll says. “The experience also gave me a preview of what I will be doing in graduate school.”
Soll has focused on a career in the communication sciences since high school. She was born with atresia-microtia, a malfunction of the external ear and the middle ear, which resulted in hearing loss in her right ear. “I always knew I wanted to do something in the field,” Soll says. “I originally thought about becoming a surgeon, but then decided to pursue a career in audiology.”
As part of her undergraduate experience, Soll did a summer internship at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary in New York City. She enjoys working with children and adults, but believes she will eventually specialize in pediatrics. “After my internship, I realized that I prefer working with children, even though they can be more challenging,” Soll says. “But, I think it’s easier for me to relate to children with hearing loss because I’m going through the same things they are.”