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Sam Atcherson

A professor of Audiology at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Sam Atcherson, 36, teaches, sees patients, publishes widely, and lectures across the country.

The work is varied and rewarding, but the journey to this career has had its twists and turns because of Atcherson’s hearing loss.

“I did not have any deaf role models before or during my health care education,” he says.

Atcherson began losing his hearing around age 2 or 3 and had a severe-to-profound loss by the time he began his undergraduate studies.  His loss was profound when he enrolled in the University of Georgia’s graduate program in Audiology.

“I had extensive speech therapy in grade school and middle school. I had itinerant teachers of the deaf in middle school and high school,” he recalls. “However, the amount and type of resources varied considerably, because my father was in the Air Force and we moved every three to four years.”

In college, “I had no resources and no one looking out for me as I had experienced in my primary and secondary education,” he says.  “As a result, my grades severely declined. I wish that I was more aware of what I needed when I first started college.”

Atcherson transferred to the University of Georgia, a state school whose
disability services office helped him obtain hearing assistive technology and notetaking services. In graduate school, he also used speech-to-text services and sign language interpreters in some of his courses.

He seemed well on the way to becoming a clinical audiologist.

“Then, near the end of my master’s program, I had a significant change in hearing that made it difficult for me to understand people using lipreading and hearing aids. I thought I might not work directly with patients again.”

In 2001, Atcherson got a cochlear implant, which helped restore some hearing. But what really helped get his health care career on solid footing was joining the Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Losses.

“This organization gave me hope,” he says. “I ended up on its board and later served as president.”

In 2008, Atcherson moved to Arkansas.  He continues to be an active national “voice” in the audiology and deaf communities. “I am now able to give back and give hope and be a role model to a new generation of students with hearing loss,” he says. “My advice for young deaf people is to think about what they can offer the world, and to think as broadly as possible.”

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