VERMILLION, S.D. – The American Academy of Audiology has honored a faculty member from the University of South Dakota’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. Jessica Messersmith, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the department, will receive the Marion Downs Pediatric Audiology Award at the association’s annual meeting in April.
Messersmith, who joined USD in 2008 after receiving her Ph.D. in human sciences from the University of Nebraska, earned the award for her exceptional contributions in pediatric audiology as an educator, clinician, advocate and scientist. The award is named in honor of Marion Downs, an audiologist who pioneered universal newborn hearing screening in the early 1960s and was a trailblazer in the field of pediatric audiology.
With her research focus on the clinical practices for children with cochlear implants, Messersmith’s achievements as a scientist and clinician result in direct benefits to people with hearing loss, said Lindsey Jorgensen, Au.D., Ph.D., associate professor of communication sciences and disorders, who nominated her USD colleague for the award.
“Dr. Messersmith is a unique scientist in that her research is very clinically founded and her goals are to provide the research evidence to improve outcomes for all people with hearing loss, but specifically children,” Jorgensen said. “I have been very impressed with her ability to take a diverse research agenda and focus it on specific projects. Through these varied projects, she can demonstrate that specific techniques hinder or improve the pediatric patients’ experiences.”
Due to her clinical and research expertise on cochlear implants, the American Academy of Audiology tapped Messersmith to be the lead author on its "Clinical Practice Guideline: Cochlear Implants" document this year. She has also served as a co-investigator with the USD Department of Nursing on two grants from the U.S. Department of Health’s Health Resources and Services Administration that addressed newborn hearing screening, intervention and follow-up in South Dakota.
In addition to her teaching and clinical duties at the Speech-Language-Hearing Center on the USD campus in Vermillion and the USD Scottish Rite Children’s Clinic in Sioux Falls, Messersmith also travels with audiology students to western South Dakota to hold pediatric hearing clinics in underserved areas two times each year.
“Marion Downs is widely recognized as the founder of pediatric audiology,” Messersmith said. “Throughout her life, she worked tirelessly to support children with hearing loss and their families. Though I never directly studied under Marion, I always looked to her has a model of what I hoped to be as a professional. I had the privilege of meeting her years ago at a conference. Talking with her furthered my adoration of who she was. Receiving an award in her name is an honor; an honor that I anticipate will push me to work harder to support children with hearing loss.”