Deaf ROC Conference


Deaf/HH Scientists ROC (Deaf ROC) conference takes place at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) on August 29 and 30.

The conference aims to advance the success of deaf and hard-of-hearing (D/HH) individuals in biomedical and behavioral research careers. By doing so, it brings deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists and allied groups together to foster the community and build a network nationwide. For this reason, the conference theme is “Bridging the Gap: Empowering Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students in Hearing Research Environments”. 

The conference is formed through the collaboration of URMC and RIT/NTID to give undergraduate and graduate students a platform to learn more about successful deaf scientists who will be giving presentations and panel discussions. All individuals, especially for deaf and hard of hearing, who want to explore biomedical and biobehavioral avenues are highly encouraged to register and attend this conference!

Event Information

Register to attend and save the date!

Learn more about the event on Thursday, August 29, 2024 at University of Rochester.

On Friday, August 30, 2024, National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) welcomes all undergraduate and graduate students to advance their knowledge in biomedical and behavioral fields through various workshops and networking opportunities. Below is the event schedule starting from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Student Development Center 1300/1310.

Graphic text that reads 'There are few Deaf scientists. We want to change that.'

Event Schedule

Friday, August 30

8:00 am - 9:00 pm
Registration and Continental Breakfast

SDC 1300/1310

The continental breakfast will be provided for those who registered for this event. NTID will make a quick opening to welcome the second day of the Deaf ROC conference.

9:00 am - 9:45 pm
Unveiling Resilience: A Journey through Graduate School - Empowering Mental Wellness, Self-Advocacy, and the Discovery of New Dreams and Self-Potential

 SDC 1300/1310

Dr. Amie Fornah Sankoh

9:45 am - 10:00 am
10:00 am - 10:45 am
Competency in Leadership: Collaborative

 SDC 1300/1310

Christopher "Chris" Woodfill

10:45 am - 11:45 am
DHH Scholars Panel Session

 SDC 1300/1310

Savannah Tellander, Hannah DeFelice, Hayden Orr, and Morgan Singleton moderated by Dr. Mariam Paracha

Noon - 1:00 pm

Dyer Arts Gallery

1:15 pm - 2:15 pm
Undergraduate Mentorship Panel Session

 SDC 1300/1310

Dr. Rain Bosworth, Wendy Dannels, Dr. Lea Michel and Dr. Allison Fitch moderated by Dr. Alesia Allen

2:15 pm - 2:45 pm
Closing Remarks and Awards

 SDC 1300/1310

Drs. Gerry Buckley and Tiffany Panko

Keynote Presenters

Portrait of Dr. Amie Sankoh

Amie Fornah Sankoh, PhD

“Unveiling Resilience: A Journey through Graduate School - Empowering Mental Wellness, Self-Advocacy, and the Discovery of New Dreams and Self-Potential”

Amie Fornah Sankoh (she/her) made history as the first Deaf Black woman to earn a STEM doctorate, reflecting her journey of perseverance and achievement. She exemplifies excellence as a scientist and community advocate. Amie earned degrees in Laboratory Science Technology and Biochemistry from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2016, and her doctorate in Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of Tennessee in 2023. Her doctoral accomplishment has fueled her passion for increasing outreach and advocating for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in STEM. She endeavors to provide them with hands-on laboratory experiences, serving as a role model and a catalyst for breaking barriers.

Her journey of resilience enabled her to overcome obstacles related to survival, education, and language acquisition, ultimately leading her to discover her passion for STEM. Her scientific exploration included internships and multiple research projects, which formed the foundation for her PhD thesis in biological communication. She particularly focused on the impact of hormones on plant-pathogen interactions. This work taught her that communication is fundamental to the survival of any individual or population of organisms. As a Deaf person who has never taken the ability to communicate for granted, Amie firmly believes in the adage that knowledge is far more valuable when properly shared. This belief has driven her engagement in activities that have a broader impact on the scientific community. It has also shaped her perspective on the importance of diverse voices in scientific inquiry and the need for more opportunities for young Deaf individuals in STEM.

Notable Milestones

  • National Institute of Health (NIH)-supported Fellowship
  • Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation
  • NIH Predoctoral Fellowship
  • Authored four scientific publications
  • 2023 Graduate Hooding Ceremony Speaker at University of Tennessee
Portrait of Christopher “Chris” Woodfill

Christopher “Chris” Woodfill, MS, MA

“Competency in Leadership: Collaborative”

Growing up, Christopher “Chris” Woodfill (he/him) embraced his Deaf identity until he was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome at the age of 18. Since then, his transition to a DeafBlind identity has been his longest journey, spanning over 20 years.

His firm belief in servant leadership and DeafBlind identity is the cornerstone of his numerous involvements with various organizations, from local to international levels, furthering his advocacy for the Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard-of-Hearing communities in New York. The foundation of his excellence and perseverance began with his 13-year teaching experience at the Wisconsin School for the Deaf. This experience helped him navigate his roles at the Helen Keller National Center and its various regions, including New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands, for the following 12 years. During Chris’ time in Wisconsin, he leveraged his leadership role as the Vice President of the Wisconsin Association of the Deaf to pass the Wisconsin Sign Language Interpreter Licensure bill in 2010. This bill established the Sign Language Interpreter Council, on which he served for two years. It also created a mechanism for licensing all sign language interpreters working for compensation in the state of Wisconsin.

On January 2, 2024, his three decades of experience in serving the community led Governor Kathleen Hochul to appoint him as the Executive Director of the New York State Interagency Coordinating Council on Services to Persons who are Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing (IAC), which operates directly under the New York State Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing Office. Chris is ready to share his insights about the significance of collaborative leadership, highlighting prominent examples within the Executive Chamber in the New York State Capitol.

He is certified Rehabilitation Leader (CRL), which was awarded by the Council of Rehabilitation Counseling Certification (CRCC). His academic career began with a Bachelor in History and Spanish from Gallaudet University. Throughout his involvement with many organizations, he obtained two Master’s degrees: Latin American Studies from George Washington University and Deaf Education from McDaniel College.

His journey brings him to share a message with you all:

“The goal is to break down the barriers to accessibility and belonging for all Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing in all areas of life. The best way to accomplish this is by collaboration from all members of the communities.”

Deaf ROC Committee Team

Rochester Institute of Technology team
  • Deirdre Schlehofer
  • Krystal Starks
  • Kat Womack
  • Laurie Furibondo
  • Tiffany Panko
University of Rochester team
  • Craig Morrell
  • Sharon Pomeroy
  • Andrew L Thomas
  • Brittany Watterson
  • Sara Blick-Nitko
  • Athena Willis
  • Phu Duong
  • Eric Heinze
  • Rachel Hillhouse
  • Elaine Smolock
  • Hannah Holquist
  • Patricia White
  • Kirsi M Langdon

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