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Cochlear Osia System - June 2024

Interview with George Osborne Ph.D., Dean, Pennsylvania College of Optometry School of Audiology

George Osborne, PhD

May 11, 2000


AO/Beck: Dr. Osborne, thanks for spending some time with us . I'd like to start by getting a little information about you. Is it true you have two doctorates?

PCO/Osborne: Yes, I have a Ph.D. in Audiology and Speech Pathology and a D.D.S. in Dentistry, as well as two bachelor's and a masters degree.

AO/Beck: That seems like an unusual grouping of doctorates - how did you happen to get those two?

PCO/Osborne: I completed my Ph.D. (Southern Illinois University) dissertation at the Center for Cranio-Facial Anomalies at the University of Illinois College of Dentistry. Having spent a great deal of time with the dental and medical faculty involved in the treatment of children with hearing, and other, problems it was quite natural to accept the invitation to enroll in the dental program. I was very interested in improving the communication between all specialists (audiologists, physicians, dentists, etc) working with children with special needs. I continued graduate studies in pedodontia (children's dentistry). Although I don't practice dentistry, the experience of having actually earned a 'professional' doctoral degree (DDS) has been very helpful to my understanding of the processes necessary to transition audiology to a 'professional' degree (Au.D.) from the academic degree (Ph.D.). It is helpful to have experienced both.

AO/Beck: How long have you been practicing audiology?

PCO/Osborne: I started my career as the director of what became a rather large hospital speech & hearing program in Chicago in 1969. I eventually transitioned into private practice in Oak Park, IL. For sure I am among the first private practitioners in our profession. I have been practicing for over 30 years.

AO/Beck: Tell me about being in private practice in the 'early years'?

PCO/Osborne: I started before audiologists dispensed and was one of the first to actually sell and fit hearing aids. I attempted to work with the ASHA and others to accommodate the inclusion of dispensing into our scope of practice. As you know, it wasn't until some ten years later that dispensing was politically acceptable. It was my position then, as it is today, that audiologists are the only professional adequately trained to: 1. Evaluate hearing and 2. prescribe and fit hearing aids. I advocated that ASHA should trust audiologists and extend to them the integrity their credentials afforded them. Obtaining a doctorate or a master's degree is no small achievement, it is noteworthy and it carries rights and responsibilities, which a professional needs to adhere to. I always believed we had the clinical skills and education required to be recognized as professionals and that we also had the integrity to practice within the realm of our skills and knowledge. The early arguments were, in my opinion, over the element of an individuals integrity. Eventually the truth prevailed and the professionals won. Actually, the patients won!

AO/Beck: When did you start working with PCO (Pennsylvania School of Optometry)?

PCO/Osborne: I began meeting with PCO administrators early in 1998. First I just visited weekly as we initiated a study to determine the feasibility of establishing a four-year residential School of Audiology within their very prestigious College of Optometry.. The feasibility study took a little over a year. On May 10, 1999, the Board of Trustees of PCO voted unanimously to start the School of Audiology, to be launched in two phases. The first phase would be a distance education program designed as a 'bridge program' to enable qualified licensed, experienced practitioners to earn the Au.D. degree. The second phase is a four-year residential program. I actually left my practice and joined the PCO faculty full-time in September 1999. The first 8 to 9 months were spent on program accreditation. As you may know, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is very conservative and accreditation for both a new degree (the Au.D.) and a distance education delivery model for that degree became a very lengthy process. We received notice of full accreditation on April 14, 2000. It is very exciting that beginning the Fall of 2001 the College will make room for 40 audiology students to join approximately 140 optometry students in proven bio-medical foundation classes that are unique to all 'professional' doctoral programs. I should mention that the College, and the Au.D. program are also accredited by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

Doug, this new model for audiology is the most exciting project I have ever been involved in. Imagine, basic science courses taught by discipline specific professors, that is: anatomy taught by an anatomist, chemistry taught by a chemist, physiology by a physiologist. Audiology and optometry students, side-by-side in biomedical courses, sharing the same academic experiences that are unique to students in other professional doctoral training programs. This represents a major philosophic change in all aspects of audiology education and practice, recruitment to licensure. I believe audiology presents a very attractive option to medicine, dentistry, and optometry. We will be adding a minimum of 8 audiology faculty members, and several adjuncts, over the next few years, to complement the Colleges already relatively large full-time faculty and staff. An audiology clinical component will be added to the Colleges Eye Institute. The Institute services nearly 90,000 patient visits each year.

AO/Beck: How large is PCO with regards to optometry?

PCO/Osborne: PCO currently graduates about 160 optometrists each year. The College has 5 masters degree programs in vision science and rehabilitation. In addition, PCO has a complete research facility, including a live animal lab. The College also serves as the home of the World Council of Optometry. PCO provides the majority of continuing education for optometrists worldwide. PCO is really one of the most prestigious colleges of optometry in the world. Doug, it is important for folks know that there are only 17 schools of optometry in the US. They graduate about 1200 optometrists each year. Contrast that with nearly 120 programs graduating fewer than 700 audiologists.

AO/Beck: When will the residency program begin?

PCO/Osborne: The proposed date is Fall, 2001.

AO/Beck: When does the distance education program begin?

PCO/Osborne: The distance education program has already started. The program began May 1, 2000 and the second session of classes starts June 26th. Classes are six weeks in length and a new session begins every eight weeks. The response has been enthusiastic. Audiologists seem to view our program as the opportunity they have been waiting for.

AO/Beck: Dr. Osborne, is there an opportunity for Au.D. practitioners to 'audit' any of the courses you're offering for CEU's, or to simply gain more knowledge in specific areas?

PCO/Osborne: We have had lots of inquiries along those lines from other program faculty, several new Au.D. graduates from other distance education programs, and our foreign colleagues. We're investigating those opportunities. Eventually, our 'very rich' course offerings will be available as continuing education, but not for quite awhile and certainly not at the current fee structure. classes are in-depth, comprehensive courses which, although variable instructor by instructor, require a great deal of study and work. Each is taught be a recognized expert practitioner. Contrary to the first impression one might have of 'computer coursework' the interaction between student/student and student/faculty has been shown to be greater in computer courses than in face-to-face classrooms.

AO/Beck : What are the minimal requirements for entry into the distance education program?

PCO/Osborne: An audiologist must have four years of experience after receiving a masters or doctorate in audiology, be licensed to practice audiology, and complete the Evaluation of Practicing Audiologists Capabilities (EPAC).

AO/Beck: If a prospective student and readers wants to see the faculty list and the details, how do they find out more about it?

PCO/Osborne: Please have them visit I am very proud of the faculty, they are all listed there and they are all recognized as leaders in their areas of expertise. All of our faculty members have practiced extensive in the areas related to their courses. Audiologists can call us, or Email, and we will be happy to send them a brochure that lists the entire faculty and describes the program 'step-by-step'.

AO/Beck: One of the concerns I've heard to distance education programs is that audiologists can simply mail in a check, take a test, and then get a doctorate degree. Is there any truth to that?

PCO/Osborne: A truly spectacular candidate, who could demonstrate experience and training in all areas of audiology might be able to convince our 5 member admissions committee they were qualified to take the comprehensive examination. The comprehensive examination, approximately 150 items, draws questions from every one of the curriculum's 45 courses. Yes, theoretically one could earn a doctorate without ever having taken a class. Is that likely? Probably not! I am a fairly well experienced audiologist and can assure you that I would not attempt the examination without taking several courses. Of course, there are those among us who are 'spectacular' and we certainly welcome their application. The 'naysayers' who attempt to discount this very attractive, credible, and reasonable opportunity for audiologists are invited to apply. We do want the very brightest among our alumnus.

On a more serious and constructive note, we think the average distance education student will need to take 10 to 12 classes, some more, some less. Each class is 6 weeks in duration and will be repeated up to six times each year. We anticipate that the average audiologist can complete the program within 2 years.

Doug, let me address the issue of 'clinical competence.' We have made the assumption that audiologists making application to our distance education program are already clinically competent by virtue of their advanced degrees, experience, and license to practice. Our goal is to assure that all candidates will be knowledgeable and able to speak intelligently about all aspects of audiology within of our scope of practice. Our program does not have a clinical component. If a student wishes to incorporate a new procedure into their clinical routine our faculty will advise them appropriately about additional training, experience, and the acquisition of instrumentation. We have the largest, most experienced faculty in the country. All are experts in their areas. Over 30 of the professions experts who are here to serve our students and alumni. is a long-term professional doctoral program, not a one-time continuing education event.

AO/Beck: What is the fee structure for PCO?

PCO/Osborne: An application, which can be made directly from our website costs $100. After acceptance each candidate pays a one-time enrollment fee of $2250.00, and each course costs $250.00. Students must pay for each course. There is a graduation fee of $150. Therefore, the 10 course student will spend a total of $5,000.00, plus books and related expenses.

AO/Beck: Is there a research component required to earn the Au.D. at the PCO School of Audiology?

PCO/Osborne: No. True professional education does not require 'research'. Research, a thesis or dissertation, is a requirement of graduate (academic) education. Research will not be required in either our distance education or residential Au.D. Degree programs That is not to say that 'doctors' are never involved in research projects. They may be if they wish. We believe research will become a meaningful and integral part of the residential program, just as it is for optometry.

AO /Beck: How long will the distance education program be open?

PCO/Osborne: To be fair to all audiologists 'in the pipeline' we intend to make the distance education program available for approximately five years. The distance education program is not to be considered 'primary' education. It is designed to transition only qualified, experienced licensed practitioners to the Au.D.. Our distance education program is not a mechanism to allow a student graduating from a masters program to earn an Au.D. Eventually, the program will become a continuing education program accessible to everyone.

AO/Beck: Dr. Osborne, thanks for your time and I wish you the best in the further refinement and development of PCO's School of Audiology.

PCO/Osborne: Thanks Doug. I hope you can see that we are very serious and optimistic about the future of audiology. We appreciate the opportunity to share our plans with you and the members of Keep up the good work!

Signia Xperience - July 2024

George Osborne, PhD

Dean, Pennsylvania College of Optometry School of Audiology

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