The John A. Burns School of Medicine resumed clinical appointments last week with clients who depend on the school’s Department of Communications Sciences and Disorders for speech and language therapy. The department’s clinic and its students and faculty were displaced February 12 by the fire that destroyed a building on the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s lower campus.
Classes have continued without major disruption for 24 master’s degree students and 7 faculty members of the department, thanks to rapid logistical support from the UH System, UH Mānoa and the medical school. The students and faculty were immediately relocated to the medical school’s facility in Kakaʻako, and are now moving into space being leased in the former Gold Bond Building on Ala Moana Boulevard.
Students in the program are required to complete 400 hours of clinical therapy, so the loss of a clinical treatment area since February 12 has been a serious concern. That concern has been alleviated with a new location secured, and the program is now contacting clients to let them know when their individual therapy sessions will resume. Upper-level students who see clients in external settings, including at the Tripler Army Medical Center and for Easter Seals, have not been affected.
In addition to treating Hawaiʻi citizens who are speech or hearing impaired and offering hearing screenings for school children and the public, the program conducts research into communications disorders. One ongoing study aims to learn whether the deployment of U.S. military members has caused them to suffer significant hearing loss. Another project is seeking to discern whether standard measures to evaluate language-learning difficulties need to be revised to take into account cultural differences among people, including those for whom English is a second language.
New home for the Department of Communications Sciences and Disorders
The medical school intends to permanently establish the new home for the Department of Communications Sciences and Disorders by this summer.
“We were planning to move the department this coming May to improve the educational and treatment environment for the students, faculty and members of the public who depend on our audiologists and communication therapists,” said John A. Burns School of Medicine Dean Jerris Hedges. “With quick action by our administrative team and our Mānoa and UH System colleagues, we have been able to secure space early for the new offices and clinical treatment area.”
“At first, we didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, whether we were going to be able to move until May,” said first-year master’s student Janelle Hiu. “Everybody’s been really nervous about whether things could be pushed up. We are very grateful that we have been embraced here and we were able to continue classes and it’s not going to have a long-term effect on our projected graduation and our learning.”
“I’m very glad we have been able to get a lot of positive things out of such a bad thing, a fire,” said Hiu. “Not only for the students, but we are moving to a location where there is actually access to a lot more things for our clients, too, when we are fully up and running.”