In January 2017, twelve students and two clinical faculty of the Long Island Doctor of Audiology Consortium, which offers a clinical doctorate in audiology through the cooperation of Adelphi University, Hofstra University and St. John’s University, traveled to Trinidad and Tobago for 7 days to provide free hearing healthcare and services to underserved communities. During the program, made possible by The Starkey Hearing Foundation as part of their Global Based Hearing Health Care Program “So The World May Hear,” the group of third year audiology students helped to register over 200 patients, provided ear screenings and ear cleanings, identified hearing loss, fit proper amplification and made sure the patients were thoroughly counseled.
“We talked about the culture and customs of the people in Trinidad prior to our trip, but there was absolutely nothing better than experiencing it for ourselves”, said Victoria Laurella, a Hofstra student. “The people of Trinidad and Tobago are amazing, even with the smallest gesture of kindness they are always so grateful and happy. What I took away from the experience in Trinidad is something that is even difficult to fully express into words. The people of this country have so little and lived so far away from the mission site, but they were willing to travel as far as they had to in order to receive basic hearing care and services. Sometimes, we take for granted our access to healthcare and how many options we have in the U.S but the people of Trinidad don’t have the same resources, we saw several patients with varying degrees of hearing loss and hearing issues that had never been identified or managed, it was really incredible to be able to help them. There were multiple patients, who would not leave the mission site until they thanked every single one of us for what we were doing, and that alone was a huge reward for myself and my classmates”, said Victoria.
“This experience was humbling and gratifying, it was a life-changing trip that greatly contributed to my development as a future audiologist”, said Adriana Sposito an Adelphi student. “Even though we were visitors and there to help, the people of Trinidad & Tobago were extremely welcoming which made us feel at home. When I would ask them questions about where they lived and local places, their faces would light up and they would recommend different foods to try and sites to visit. I loved my entire experience and direct interaction with the patients, I would do it again!” said Adriana.
The hearing mission was particularly meaningful for one student, Areeka Tiwari, a St. John’s student whose parents are from nearby Guyana. Areeka said the experience was like a homecoming. “There are the same Indo-Caribbean roots in Guyana and Jamaica that are also in Trinidad, so for me it is kind of like coming home,” Areeka said. “It is a similar culture, similar food, our accents are very similar, we have that free spirit. Even though this was not me helping in Guyana, this was me helping Trinidad, and all of our forbearers came from the same place at the end of the day. This experience was just the best, I had the greatest time of my life.”
The Long Island Au.D. Consortium values these humanitarian hearing care opportunities for our students. “We find that by adding volunteer global humanitarian clinical activities as part of the clinical curriculum, we help add and further promote awareness and advocacy for global hearing care, it has also helped to maximize the student’s knowledge base of the audiological necessities across the world”, said Dr. Ianthe Murad, Long Island Au.D. Clinical Program Coordinator.
“Collaborating with the Starkey Hearing Foundation has proven to be a valuable experience for our Au.D. students’ education. Not only are they given the opportunity to travel and learn about a different country and culture, but they have been allowed to discover their own professional identities by serving a population who otherwise would not have access to hearing care. As their clinical supervisor, watching our students grow into their roles as audiologists and giving back to the global community has been extremely rewarding for me”, said Dr. Rose Valvezan, Clinical Coordinator of Audiology at Hofstra University.