Denver, CO November 10 - A "quiet woman" who found her voice lobbying for the rights of people with hearing loss, a photographer/graphic designer whose creative vision is changing the way people with hearing loss see themselves and a scholar at one of the country's most prestigious universities who far surpassed early predictions that she would find her life's work at the counter of a fast food restaurant . . .
These are just four of the 15 outstanding individuals honored by the 2008 Oticon Focus on People Awards, a national awards program that recognizes people with hearing loss who prove that hearing loss does not limit a person's ability to live a full, productive and even, inspiring life. Created by Oticon, Inc. in 1997, the Focus on People Awards program is designed to focus attention on common misconceptions about hearing loss, correct negative stereotypes and motivate people with hearing loss to take advantage of the help that is available to them.
"Through the Focus on People Awards, we hope to show the world that hearing loss does not diminish a person's ability to live a full and productive life," stated Oticon President Peer Lauritsen. "More importantly, we want to encourage everyone with hearing loss to seek professional guidance. In doing this, we remain true to our mission: to address the needs, wishes and concerns of people with hearing loss first."
The 2008 Oticon Focus on People Awards winners were selected from among 200 nominees. Featured L-R: Todd Landsberg, AuD of Eugene Speech and Hearing Center in Eugene, OR (Practitioner Category); Lynn Rousseau of Gainesville, FL (Advocacy Category); Peer Lauritsen, President of Oticon, Inc.; Cindy Dyer of Alexandria, VA (Adult Category); Mariella Paulino of the Bronx, NY (Student Category); and Doug Wernke, M Ed of the South Dakota School for the Deaf in Rapid City, SD (Pediatric Practitioner Category).
More than 300 hearing care professionals from across the country celebrated this year's Award winners at an Awards celebration in Denver during a Special Oticon Human Link Conference. The 2008 winners were selected from among 200 nominees, earning first, second or third place honors in one of the program's five categories: Student (full-time students with hearing loss, ages 6-21), Adult (people with hearing loss, ages 21 and beyond), Advocacy (individuals of all ages involved in advocacy for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community) and Practitioner and Pediatric Practitioner (for hearing care professionals currently in practice).
2008 first place winners include: Cindy Dyer of Alexandria, VA (Adult Category); Mariella Paulino of the Bronx, NY (Student Category); Lynn Rousseau of Gainesville, FL (Advocacy Category); Todd Landsberg, AuD of Eugene Speech and Hearing Center in Eugene, OR (Practitioner Category) and Doug Wernke, M Ed of the South Dakota School for the Deaf in Rapid City, SD (Pediatric Practitioner Category).
Blue Ribbon Judging Panel
The winners were selected by independent judging committee composed of leading hearing care professionals. This year's program judges included: Terry Limb, AuD of Evergreen Speech & Hearing Clinic, Kirkland, WA; Jackie Rand of Rady's Children's Hospital, San Diego, CA; Sharon Sandridge, Ph.D., CCC-A of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, OH; Larry Solow, AuD, PhD of Valley Hearing Center, Salinas, CA ; and Lisa Steinwart, AuD of Steinwart Audiology, Yorkville, IL.
2008 Oticon Focus on People Category Winners
First Place Category Winners
Adult -- Cindy Dyer of Alexandria, VA
Cindy Dyer wears many hats - artist, photographer, graphic designer, horticulturalist, ambience maker - but uses her wealth of talents primarily "to show vibrant people who happen to have hearing loss and who co-exist with it." She had a bout with hearing loss at age two, losing about 20 percent of her hearing, then sudden deafness in one ear in at age 33. She now wears a hearing aid in her "good ear." Cindy employs her many creative skills to put a face on hearing loss through the photos and graphic treatments she provides to Hearing Loss Magazine, the magazine of the Hearing Loss Association of America. When the magazine's modest budgets prevent her from investing more time and money into an article, Cindy generously gives her free time, travels to locations near and far and absorbs costs to insure that the stories she brings to life with her photos inspire and motivate. Editor Barbara Kelley reports that "Cindy takes the world by storm and sees beauty through her camera lens. And through her great generosity, donates her time and talent to benefit many people with hearing loss." A considerable green thumb and a contagious sense of humor round out Cindy's talents and help complete the portrait of a very special individual who demonstrates through her life and her work that people with hearing loss can indeed make a considerable difference in our world.
As part of her award, Cindy has designated the several animal welfare organizations as the recipients of a $1,000 donation from Oticon, Inc.
Student -- Mariella Paulino of the Bronx, NY
Nineteen-year-old Mariella Paulino's life story could easily be made into an inspirational movie. Shortly after arriving from the Dominican Republic with no knowledge of English, she was stricken with meningitis that left her deaf and with walking difficulties. When she entered school, teachers held little hope that she would lead a fully functional life. Jump ahead 11 years, Mariella is a double major in sociology and politics at prestigious New York University. As a 4-year Dean's List student at the Academy of Mount St. Ursula's High School, Mariella was editor-in-chief of the year book, Library Council president and founder of the Let's Make School Awesome program. She was also selected to participate in the highly competitive "I Lead" Goldman Sachs Scholar program. As if that weren't enough, Mariella founded and volunteered at an after-school program tutoring low income grade school children. In her spare time, she serves as a spokesperson for the League for the Hard of Hearing and the NYU Cochlear Implant Center. Somewhere along the way she has also managed to squeeze in a three-week academic expedition to Antarctica. Mariella's intrepid spirit and extraordinary accomplishments make her a role model for all, but especially for those with hearing loss.
As part of her award, Mariella has designated the League for the Hard of Hearing as the recipient of a $1,000 donation from Oticon, Inc.
Advocacy -- Lynn Rousseau of Gainesville, FL
Anyone who knows Lynn Rousseau today would be amazed to learn that ten years ago she was described as "a very quiet person." Today her life is filled with occasions when she speaks out on behalf of those with hearing loss. The immediate past president of the Florida Chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America, Lynn is true to her organization's mandate to be a "voice for people with hearing loss." As president, she organized a full agenda of activities from a successful Walk4Hearing event, participation in numerous community health and awareness fairs, securing captioning communication on Florida's highways, collecting and distributing assistive devices to enable mothers with hearing loss to hear their babies and getting local fire departments to provide proper smoke detectors to the hearing impaired community. A delegate to the World Congress Conference of the Society for Accessible Travel, Lynn also generously gives her time to opening the world of dance and theater to hearing impaired elementary school students.
As part of her award, Lynn has designated the Hearing Loss Association of Florida as the recipient of a $1,000 donation from Oticon, Inc.
Practitioner -- Todd Landsberg, AuD of Eugene, OR
Dr. Todd Landsberg has had a passion for helping patients with hearing loss since he was a young child. At age 5, he was fitted with his first pair of hearing aids by a kind and caring hearing care professional and his career path was established. Dr. Landsberg has faced many challenges in his life in addition to his hearing loss, including a kidney transplant, but his struggles have made him stronger and more determined to achieve his goals. When he is not caring for patients at the Eugene Speech and Hearing Center, Dr. Landsberg volunteers his time as an advocate for people with hearing loss with numerous local and national organizations. He provides free hearing testing each month at the Volunteers of Medicine Clinic, a clinic for people in need, and works with lawyers and judges to promote FM technology in the courtroom. In his free time, Todd enjoys running and is an accomplished distance runner. For this dedicated and caring professional, "going the distance" for people with hearing loss is a way of life.
As part of his award, Todd has designated the American Tinnitus Association, Cascade Lions Club of Eugene and the Volunteers of Medicine of Eugene as recipients of a $1,000 donation from Oticon, Inc.
Pediatric Practitioner -- Doug Wernke, M Ed of Rapid City, SD
Doug Wernke is an Outreach Consultant for the South Dakota School for the Deaf. In his role, he is both a counselor and an advocate for his many charges, ranging in age from 21 years to 11 months. His goal is to ensure that his clients' educational settings are accommodating and provide the access they require to succeed in school. He assists older clients through the maze of college choices and applications and helps ease their transition into the world. Doug's commitment to his clients is obvious to all who see him - and it is often remarked that he treats the young people in his program "like family." At baseball games, dance recitals, band and choir concerts and all of the "extras" that he encourages his clients to get involved in, it is not unusual to see Doug in the stands, cheering with an enthusiasm rivaling the other fans. He encourages his charges to "aim high" and instills in them a belief in their own ability to achieve. Thanks to his caring dedication, many young people with hearing loss have stretched beyond what everyone thought was possible and achieved their dreams. For his colleagues and the children and families he serves, there is only one word to describe Doug - irreplaceable.
As part of his award, Doug has designated the South Dakota School for the Deaf Foundationof a $1,000 donation from Oticon, Inc.
Second Place: Michael Fowler of Wichita, KS
Third: Thomas McHugh, PhD of Rock Hall, MD
Second: Anna Leach of Columbus, OH
Third: Kristin Pierce of Indian Harbour Beach, FL
Second: George Joslin of Springfield, MO
Third: Mary Beth Mothersell of Geneseo, NY
Second: Megan Nightingale, AuD of Poulsbo, WA
Third: Tori Gustafson, AuD of Lubbock, TX
Second: Dr. Rebecca Plesko of Staunton, VA
Third: Cindy Pichler of Morton Grove, IL
Oticon is one of the most innovative hearing aid manufacturers on the market. With more than 100 years of experience, Oticon has spearheaded a number of technological breakthroughs which have made a significant difference for people with hearing loss. Oticon is the only hearing aid manufacturer with its own psycho acoustic research center, ensuring that the needs of hearing aid users are always put first when developing new solutions.
For more information about the Oticon Focus on People Awards and hearing health, visit http://www.oticonusa.com/ .