When Jackie Clark was in Mozambique for her first deployment, she gave a young man a hearing aid. It was the first one she ever gave out as a humanitarian.
He was found wandering the streets of Mozambique during the civil war as a toddler. Clark met him at an orphanage when he was possibly around 13 years old.
“No one knew where he came from, no one knew his story because he really didn’t speak, and it became clear to them he couldn’t hear,” Clark said.
Clark gave the director of the orphanage instructions on how to care for the hearing aid. The next time Clark returned to the area, she asked the director about the boy.
“I said, ‘Well how’s the hearing aid doing?’ and it was this total look of ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Clark said.
Eventually, Clark discovered that the boy no longer had the hearing aid. She will never know what actually happened, but she said she assumes that the boy either sold it, or even worse, that it was stolen from him.
Clark, a professor at UTD, was recently named the President of the American Academy of Audiology, and has been on the board since 2013. The AAA is the largest organization of audiologists and seeks to promote audiology.
“It all ends up at the end of the day being what will improve our practice of audiology as well as ultimately what we do, we are a helping discipline … that seek to make people’s lives better, so that they’re part of their community and they can hear and be connected,” Clark said.
When Clark was younger, she had learning disabilities, articulation disorders and language disorders, and was in speech therapy until sixth grade.
“It felt like when I finished high school that first of all that I would not be college material,” she said. “I didn’t feel I had the brainpower to do college.”
It only took three years for Clark to complete a bachelor’s degree, and she said she does not attribute the early graduation to brainpower, but hard work. After working in retail management for three years after college, Clark said she thought back when she took speech therapy.
“I’ve always been amazed at how they fixed me and got me understanding things better, and started investigating the whole speech pathology and audiology,” she said. “And the rest is pretty much history.”
Out of the many visits Clark took to Africa, she still remembers her very first deployment, where she dispensed the hearing aid to the young man. She said that engaging the caregiver could ensure that the devices stay with the people who have them.
“Even though my assumption was ‘Of course the orphanage director should be very interested and engaged,’ but there was no emotional engagement with this young man with the orphanage,” she said.
Clark teaches a course at UTD where she takes students to an underdeveloped region in sub-Saharan Africa to work with audiologists. She said she hopes that by taking students to Africa for the class, they will continue their path by creating their own practice in the region.
“I always tell our students that I promise that your life will be changed in some way, you’ll look at things differently when you go, and so far, that’s the truth.”