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August 22, 2016

Hearing for Humanity program helps treat hearing loss, train local clinic workers

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2016, click here.

Ingrid McBride has just returned from one of the world’s poorest countries, where she spends every summer working to make sure people can hear.

McBride, an Arizona State University audiology professor, has traveled to Malawi in southeast Africa for each of the last six years to address what she calls a “tremendous” need for medical professionals who can help people with hearing problems.

Audiologists provide a range of services, from fitting patients for hearing aids to diagnosing disorders, and there wasn’t a single one in the nation of 16 million people when McBride founded Hearing for Humanity in 2010. “There was just nothing happening as far as ear and hearing care at all,” said McBride, clinical professor and director of the Audiology Clinic at ASU.

Hearing for Humanity seeks to provide care and train local clinicians, implementing sustainable practices that can be put into use long after volunteers leave. McBride’s program also gives ASU students in the Department of Speech and Hearing Science an opportunity to study and work abroad for course credit.

The initiative is fueled by private charitable contributions from individuals and corporate partners. McBride and her team of students work to raise the funds needed to purchase supplies and hearing aids, which they bring with them to MalawiMap of the country of MalawiMalawi is nestled between Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia. .  

Each year, McBride and a team of students — there were 15 in the latest group — spend a month in Malawi, helping curb hearing loss for children and adults at hospitals and clinics across the country.

Since that first year, the level of care in Malawi has improved, though the need is still great. Today, there are still only three audiologists in the nation. But scores of clinic workers have learned from the Hearing for Humanity volunteers, making sure patients have access to care year round.

“Already what’s happened since we’ve been gone is just amazing,” McBride said, adding that people fit with hearing aids have been able to receive follow-up care, “so that makes it sustainable.”

Hearing for Humanity also has helped train four Malawian audiology students selected to attend the University of Manchester tuition-free to obtain master’s degrees. “When they come back, they will be Malawi’s first home-grown audiologists,” McBride said.


group shot of audiology specailists in Malawi
At the end of a long clinic day, the Hearing for Humanity team, along with local interpreters and clinical officers, pose for a group photo in Malawi. Photo courtesy Ingrid McBride


Among the small number of audiologists in Malawi is ASU alum Courtney Caron, who participated in McBride’s program for two years as a student and one year as a professional before setting up her own clinic.

“When I first began graduate school at ASU in 2009,” Caron said, “I had a plan set in my mind: I would graduate with my AuD then pursue an MBA and work my way toward opening my own private practice.”

Instead, she said, she “ended up skipping the MBA” and opening a clinic in a nation where the United Nations reports that 74 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day.

She said she got her own practice in the end, “but I think I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to do it in a much more rewarding way.”

Others involved also say the program has benefits that stretch both ways.

ASU clinical assistant professor Kate Helms-Tillery was a part of McBride’s team this year and said “it’s an important experience for our students” to provide service to others as often as possible. Also, the program gives “students the opportunity to work with people from a different culture,” which she said is “critical because students will also encounter people of different cultures once they begin practicing.”

Audiology graduate student Jessica Wenger (pictured at top) recognized the benefit even before going, saying the program was what "sold" her on attending ASU. “There just aren’t any other universities offering something like it,” she said, calling the opportunity a “huge advantage over the experience you’d get anywhere else.”

For Caron, there is tangible benefit to helping others improve their lives.   

“You don’t need to speak the language to understand how much of a difference has been made,” Caron said. “Every task big or small takes so much more effort” in Malawi, “so every progress is a celebration.”

“The effect of any disability on a person’s life here is so much more so than in the U.S.,” she said. “So giving them even the smallest assistance can make a world of difference.”

Top photo courtesy Jessica Wenger.

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Grads of ASU's Pueblo Indian Doctoral Cohort are changing their communities.
A year after earning his PhD, Carnell Chosa still not used to being called "Dr."
Co-founder of doctoral program a "force to be reckoned with" in Indian education
August 23, 2016

Carnell Chosa, a co-founder and graduate of the ASU Pueblo Indian Doctoral Program, is training leaders in his community

Editor's Note: This is the first in a two-part series following members of the first ASU Pueblo Indian Doctoral Cohort. The 10-member group — formed to address a glaring underrepresentation of Native American doctorates — graduated a year ago, and in the time since they’ve expanded leadership programs, women’s rights work and political efforts. ASU Now visited New Mexico to get a close-up view of their progress. The second story is available to read here.

Carnell Chosa has had his doctorate for more than a year, but he says he’s still not used to anyone calling him “Dr.”

“My usual reaction is, ‘Who, me?” he said, adding later, “In a way, it still doesn’t seem real.”

For years, Chosa has operated a leadership program for Native Americans out of an otherwise empty wing of a Santa Fe, New Mexico, high school. His austere, isolated office underscores his quiet, humble nature, but it belies the booming impact of his efforts that now include helping establish the doctoral program that earned him his title: Dr. Chosa.

“Carnell Chosa is a force to be reckoned with,” said Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, Arizona State University’s special adviser on American Indian Affairs. Chosa has “a tremendous vision for his work that is focused on communities driving toward their own futures.”

Such goals prompted Brayboy to partner with Chosa’s Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School to select the inaugural class of the ASU Pueblo Indian Doctoral Program. Brayboy also tapped Chosa to join that first cohort, a 10-member group assembled in 2012 to address a severe underrepresentation of Native American doctorates and doctoral candidates.


Only 1 of every 7,000 American Indian and Alaska Natives who attends high school goes on to obtain a doctorate, Brayboy said. “The number itself surprised me,” he said. “I felt like ASU was best situated to address this and to be able to build and strengthen local capacity in tribal communities.”

According to the National Science Foundation’s 2014 Survey of Earned Doctorates, whites represent 73 percent of all doctorates earned in the last two decades followed by Latinos with 6.5 percent; blacks with 6.4 percent. Native Americans, meanwhile, accounted for 0.3 percent.

When cohort members graduated, they represented about 20 percent of all doctorates earned by Native scholars in 2015, and the program promises to grow. A second Pueblo cohort launched last fall, and a Navajo doctoral program launched this year. Tribes from around the nation, meanwhile, are reaching out to see if they can be included, Brayboy said.

In the year since the first Pueblo cohort graduated, members have returned to their communities and expanded leadership programs, women’s rights work and political efforts.

Carnell Chosa works in his garden in Santa Fe

Chosa spends time
in the garden of his
Santa Fe home, where
he grows squash, chilis
and corn. He was too 
busy to keep a garden
when he was working
toward his doctorate.

Photo by Deanna Dent/

The program’s roots go back to 2011 when Chosa went looking for an indigenous justice program — focused on the social, legal, economic and human rights inequities within the Native communities. He checked with several universities, but came up empty. Eventually, he reached out to Elizabeth Sumida Huaman at ASU’s School of Social Transformation, which didn’t have such a program at the time, but agreed to co-create one if they could find qualified candidates and funding.

Brayboy, a President’s Professor and director of ASU’s Center of Indian Education, along with Sumida Huaman, an assistant professor of indigenous education, justice and social inquiry in ASU’s School of Social Transformation, connected with the Santa Fe-based institute to identify potential applicants and turned out an inaugural class with deep backgrounds — as teachers, advocates, lawyers and health care professionals — working on social issues facing New Mexico pueblos.

About a year later, the program launched with financial support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which provided the Leadership Institute more than $600,000 to cover tuition, fees, books and travel. ASU, meanwhile, offered scholarships to cover tuition for two students.

ASU professors flew to New Mexico to teach the courses. The scholars, meanwhile, occasionally visited Tempe, Arizona, and also traveled to study with other indigenous doctoral students around the world, including the Sami in Norway and the Maori in New Zealand.

Cohort members said it was a brutally busy period.

“There were times when we all wanted to quit because it was so intense,” said Michele Suina, a cohort member from the Cochiti Pueblo. “I remember more than a few late night phone calls with Carnell, who was able to talk me into staying. We all drew on each other in those three years.”

Chosa said he considered dropping the program, but he didn’t want to let down himself or others.

“Completing the doctorate meant I could help influence or shape the dreams of the future of a child in our community,” he said. “My community helped shape me, and now I’m in the position to do the same for someone else.”

The 44-year-old Chosa was raised on the Jemez Pueblo, a closed reservation surrounded by mountains about 55 miles northwest of Albuquerque. He was raised by his mother and his grandparents, but he said his support network was much larger.

“In our pueblos you don’t have one parent, you have 10,” Chosa said. “You have aunts and uncles, cousins and a community of adult neighbors that can nurture and discipline you and take on a parental role to make sure you grow up the right way.”

He said his mother, Martha, an Army veteran, returned to Jemez, a farming community of about 3,800 people, to raise him so that he would learn to speak Towa.

“There’s something very special about speaking a language that only very few people in the world know,” Chosa said. “It connects us as a people, which has kept us together for a long time.”

That connection helped draw Chosa back home after he went to New England for college. He received his undergraduate degree at Dartmouth in 1994 and his master’s at Harvard two years later.

He returned to New Mexico and established the Leadership Institute, alongside co-founder Regis Pecos, which he has run ever since.

Today, the institute runs 17 programs focused on leadership, community service, public policy and critical thinking. Its cornerstone is the Summer Policy Academy, a four-week summer mentorship for high school students that focuses on indigenous issues at the tribal, state, national and international levels.

This year, that signature academy celebrated its 10th year. It’s graduated nearly 250 students, all of whom created and implemented community service projects and developed youth policy position papers on issues of their choosing.  

Albuquerque attorney Aaron Sims attended the inaugural Summer Policy Academy in 2006 on behalf of the Acoma Pueblo. He said it changed his life. “At the end of the program,” Sims said, “you have to answer, ‘What will your contribution be to your community? And how will you help keep them going?’”

Sims said Chosa has remained a valuable friend and mentor. “He takes enormous pride in seeing others succeed.”

Chosa’s Leadership Institute is getting bigger. Last month, the program received a $630,000 expansion grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The foundation’s director of New Mexico programs Kara Carlisle said the Leadership Institute provides “long-term solutions that support the well-being of pueblo children and families.”

For Brayboy, the success isn’t surprising. Chosa “is innovative, deeply engaged in his communities — and the communities surrounding him — and is one of the best people I know. He is a gift.”