Trailblazing with Her CCCs

Deborah Moncrieff’s path to audiology may be uncommon, but the shared connection and resources from her ASHA certification played an important role in her career.

Even though she wouldn’t pursue audiology and auditory processing disorders for another two decades, Deborah Moncrieff recalls being fascinated with communication and how the brain hears and processes information while she studied Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales as an English major in college.

“What I enjoyed about Chaucer was the storytelling and that it wasn’t just written text, but using the stories to teach and communicate,” says Deborah. “That’s really what I was all about before I knew what I wanted to be professionally — I had this sense of trying to understand how people listen, how people take in information and how they utilize it to develop brain-based cognitive skills.”

After spending more than 20 years at home raising her children, Deborah earned a Ph.D. in Cognition and Neuroscience. One day, her dean at the University of Texas at Dallas encouraged Deborah to explore a master’s degree in audiology so she could take the brain-based knowledge she gained from her Ph.D. studies and apply it to the communications sciences. “I didn’t have a clue about audiology before that,” Deborah admits, but she gradually became more interested in the field through her classes as well as experiences in the broader audiology network.

“When I went to a convention and heard a talk about auditory processing, I thought, ‘That’s where I need to live,’” she recalls. “That’s really where everything that goes into the sensory system comes into the brain and needs to be processed, and that’s what I was most interested in studying.”

It was around this time that Deborah obtained her ASHA certification. Doing so helped “get her off on the right foot” as an audiologist, she says. It showed she had met rigorous education and training standards and provided her with the flexibility to do clinical work and supervision. “I know friends and colleagues who were in grad school who never got or dropped their CCCs. They had a hard time getting a job,” she remembers. “When my students ask me if they should get their CCCs, I tell them definitely yes.”

Now an assistant professor at the University of Memphis, Deborah is a trailblazer in the field, thanks to her background in wet brain neuroscience and audiology. She has a patent pending for a groundbreaking device that will allow for the treatment of children’s hearing deficits to be done remotely (such as in schools) and in any language, which is especially valuable in virtual educational and professional settings. Deborah says the ability to give the treatment in any environment is more beneficial because it addresses how patients hear and communicate in their everyday lives. By focusing on the functional consequences, rather than just simply resolving the hearing loss issue, she believes many children will benefit from the increased access and more deliberative treatment. She hopes the device, which features headphones and software, will be ready by early 2021.

Over the course of learning, studying and finetuning her approach to care, Deborah says her CCCs have allowed her to stay on top of the latest practices and resources in audiology.

“Because I’ve moved from state to state, my CCCs have allowed me to automatically get a license in my new home, making moving from one place to another so much easier,” says Deborah, who has held faculty positions at the Universities of Florida, Connecticut and Pittsburgh. Plus, her involvement in ASHA, including on the editorial board of one of their journals, has led to her meeting and learning from a wide range of researchers.

“These are the networking experiences that pave the way for you, because you get exposure to research, professionals, and their expertise,” Deborah says. “There are so many types of resources through ASHA that you can use depending on what your area of interest is.”

Reflecting on her career, Deborah knows that where she is now is a testament to her unique background, the resources around her, including her CCCs, and her hard work and determination.

“It feels like this point in my career came together very quickly — but it’s because of so many years of work,” she quips. “When I think back to where I was when I started and then about where I am now, I am reminded how far I have come.”