Rochester Institute of Technology’s (RIT) National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) and the University of Rochester Medical Center held the first Rochester Summer Research Training Institute with Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Scientists and Their Mentors June 11-13. The three-day conference drew one of the largest groups of deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists in the nation.
Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals are vastly under-represented in biomedical fields. RIT/NTID and URMC have partnered to identify unique barriers to science- and health-related careers faced by these individuals. Among them is a barrier to mentorship for students who are striving for health or science related careers.
With few deaf or hard-of-hearing professionals in biomedical careers, role models for the next generation of deaf scientists are few and—often literally—far between. RIT/NTID and URMC’s Rochester Summer Research Training Institute was a new approach to break down that barrier, bringing deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists at all levels of career development together from across the nation.
“I was especially impressed by the interaction and dialogue between students, postdoctoral trainees, junior faculty and top national figures,” said Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., vice dean for Research at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. “This kind of exchange and networking is exactly what we wanted to encourage when we set out to plan this meeting.”
The meeting featured a keynote address from Carol Padden, Ph.D., dean of social sciences and Sanford I. Berman Endowed Professor of Communication in the Center for Research in Language at University of California, San Diego.
“I received my Ph.D. in 1983 and there were so few of us in graduate school we had to look out for each other,” said Padden. “Now at this conference I’m so impressed at how many deaf students are pursuing doctoral and medical degrees. So many more and so many different fields, it is astonishing.”
A total of 85 participants attended the Rochester Summer Research Institute, which was held at URMC’s Saunders Research Building immediately following the conclusion of the Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Loss (AMPHL) conference at RIT/NTID. Undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral trainees as well as faculty and staff from across the country came together at this conference to network, learn from one another and raise the profile of deaf scientists.
“It was inspiring to witness young deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists meeting each other for the first time and making connections,” said Peter Hauser, Ph.D., director of the NTID Center on Cognition and Language and the Rochester Bridges to the Doctorate Program. “Many felt isolated in their fields and were able to share their experiences. I believe the resources they learned at RSRTI will help them overcome future challenges and navigate science successfully.”
The program also included an interactive poster session, small group breakout sessions and a keynote speech from Charlene E. Le Fauve, Ph.D., senior advisor to the Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity in the Office of the Director at the National Institutes of Health; and Caroline Solomon, Ph.D., chair of the faculty senate and professor of biology at Gallaudet University also presented.
The event was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (K12 GM106997) and the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.
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