AAA Conference 2022 interview with programme chair, Dr. Wafaa Kaf: interaction, variety, safety...experiences for everyone; everyone wins.



© Courtesy of American Academy of Audiology      2019 Annual AAA Conference, General Assembly presentation.

As the first in-person American Academy of Audiology (AAA) Conference since 2019 begins in St. Louis, Programme Chair, Dr. Wafaa Kaf tells Audiology Worldnews about her team’s preparedness and priorities.

Audiology Worldnews (AWN): Returning to an in-person event during an unpredictable global effort to bring this pandemic to an end is a momentous step for the Academy. How have Covid considerations influenced the program and your team’s work in weighing up what to offer?

Dr. Wafaa Kaf (WK): Holding the AAA 2022 Conference + HearTECH Expo in-person in St. Louis, Missouri is definitely a momentous step for the Academy. We are all very excited for the personal connections, immersive conversations, and networking opportunities that an in-person event offers. These serendipitous encounters help to foster personal and professional collaborations amongst members both within and outside of the audiology field. In addition to the variety of educational sessions and events, our conference also provides a multitude of hands-on experiences through the Learning Labs as well as opportunities for engagement in the HearTECH Expo that would otherwise not be offered virtually and hearing from leaders in the hearing industries.

The Learning Labs offer in-depth, cutting-edge information on hot topic areas designed to be interactive and hands-on to allow our attendees to practice appropriate clinical practices from cerumen management to teleaudiology and simulation in audiology. Additionally, the HearTECH Expo allows an interactive space for audiologists to interact with representatives from the industry to learn about the newest technology, participate in the Best Practices Verification Pavilion to learn and rehearse valuable skills that can be used in practice, and also be able to socialize and connect with peers.

In order to execute a successful in-person event during this pandemic, there were a lot of internal collaborations and communication amongst all team players. Safety is also a top priority for the program as we transition back to in-person. We will be following a COVID-19 protocol to ensure physical distance, implement a mask mandate, and check for proof of vaccination amongst our attendees and speakers.

© Courtesy of Wafaa Kaf      Dr. Wafaa Kaf, Programme Chair 2022


AWN: What have been your criteria for ensuring the relevance of this 2022 program?

WK: As the Program Chair, I have been meeting at least once weekly over the past year with the AAA Academy Staff, several Sub-Committee Chair members, a Professional Development Council group, and selected audiology students to plan and organize the AAA 2022 conference. Knowing that the AAA conference is the largest conference of, by, and for audiologists, our goal is to plan for an outstanding, inclusive program with the latest advances in our profession that can offer experiences for everyone. Throughout these meetings, we have had intensive discussions regarding the chosen content that will be provided during the conference. Due to the dynamic nature of the audiology field, our goal was to ensure that we include diverse representatives from across the nation and present the most current research and evidence-based guidelines from a variety of different categories related to audiology. In addition, it is also necessary for our attendees to have the opportunity to understand and learn more about the practical side of clinical practice, such as topics on reimbursement, coding, and ethical considerations in audiology.

Given the ongoing pandemic, we have also invited a speaker with microbiology and immunology expertise to present about “Viruses, Immunity, and the Brain: How COVID-19 Changed Almost Everything”, and other relevant topics related to public health and epidemiology of hearing loss. We will also celebrate audiology and celebrate being together, from the opening reception, honors dinner, Foundation Happy Hour to the fun activities in the exhibit hall and the Friday night event at the Anheuser Busch Biergarten, and other social events. Additionally, attendees will have the opportunity to chat with members of the Academy Board, Student Academy of Audiology (SAA) Board, and the Foundation. My schedule is already booked to meet for lunch and dinner with colleagues and friends at the conference, which is so exciting! The Academy has also adopted a new approach to unbundle continuing education and CEUs from registration to meet the needs of attendees.

AWN: You bring much personal experience in research to chairing the AAA 2022 program, but you have also presented at many national and international conferences. Which of these backgrounds has helped you most in managing this 2022 program?

WK: I believe that all of my past experiences have in one way or another helped me to manage the different components of the AAA 2022 program. For example, I have served as the President of the Missouri Academy of Audiology Conference, the Chair of the Audiology Track of the Missouri-Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and as a member of international scientific conference committees. These professional services have given me the experience to successfully manage and facilitate large meetings and conferences. However, chairing a large program with that caliber would not have been done without the enormous support of the Academy Staff whose support was timely and unlimited.

In addition, I have actively participated in a variety of state, national, and international conferences and led several international workshops. These experiences allowed me to network with a diverse group of colleagues including otologists, audiologists, and audiovestibular physicians, which has allowed me to recommend various diverse speakers for the AAA 2022 conference. Alongside my experience in conferences, I also believe that my medical education background and research expertise have allowed me to ensure that both clinical and research topics are included within the program, as they both go hand-in-hand.

Another aspect that has helped me to manage Chairing the AAA 2022 program is my work in academia. As a Professor of Audiology at Missouri State University for the past 18+ years, I have been able to identify how to provide students the necessary tools for success. One key disconnect that many students often have is how to link the findings of research to their clinical applications. Therefore, it was necessary for the AAA 2022 program to also provide some guidance for students to be able to hone on their skills of analyzing empirical evidence and incorporating this into clinical decision-making to increase clinical accountability. After every experience I am involved in - whether as the program Chair, faculty, or an invited speaker at conferences – the whole conference team and I often reflect on the areas of strengths and improvements so that we can make further changes and implement this feedback in future events.

AWN: The AAA has underlined its commitment to diversity, equality, and inclusion. How is this reflected in the building of the 2022 program?

WK: While building the AAA 2022 conference my team, the Academy Staff, the AAA conference President, and I wanted to ensure that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion topics are integrated as part of the different categories within the audiology profession. Our program offers a variety of featured sessions that include diverse topics and diverse speakers with various backgrounds. These topics range across the lifespans (infants to elderly adults), guest speakers from various professions, and topics affecting various settings (workplace, clinical practice, clinical education, and supervision, etc.) as well as topics related to partnerships in hearing care and multidisciplinary assessment and intervention approach. One example is the Marion Downs lecture in Pediatric Audiology titled, “Bias, Equity, and Early Childhood Development”. Another example is the “Organizational Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging” presentation. A third example is a three-part Clinical Education Forum titled “Belonging, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion: Addressing the Microagressions in Clinical Education.” This forum will include presentations from guest speakers outside of the audiology profession and will also include a panel of students, clinical educators, and administrators to provide their personal experiences of clinical microaggressions in the clinical setting. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are necessary topics and for this reason the AAA 2022 program offers a range of perspectives including diversity in the areas of race, linguistics, sexual identity, and disability.

The issues around intentional conclusion are delicate, and often inflammatory. And the pressures to meet expectations have perhaps never been greater for organisers and administrators. Has it been challenging to address and discuss these issues?

In planning the AAA 2022 program, our top goal is to ensure that we meet the needs of our attendees. This takes a lot of meeting discussions and planning amongst the organizers and administrators in order to make sure that expectations are met, as this is not a one-person decision but rather a thoroughly discussed group decision. At each AAA conference, the attendees are provided a survey to evaluate the program and their experience within it, assessing the strengths, weaknesses, and suggested speakers and topics. Given that the AAA conference is created for audiologists, and by audiologists, the attendees of the 2021 conference and members were given the opportunity to provide us insight on what they would like to see more of at the 2022 conference. The committee with the AAA staff met last summer post 2021 AAA conference to debrief and discuss the survey responses and take into consideration the attendees’ suggestions, for a shared governance. Together, the Academy Leadership and dedicated volunteers have been working relentlessly over this past year to create an outstanding education program and provide opportunities for the attendees to connect and reconnect with colleagues and friends, and to learn while also having fun during our first in-person conference in St. Louis in the past two years.

AWN: You know Missouri well, and the national audiology landscape. How does Missouri fit into that hearing health landscape academically and professionally?

WK: Missouri offers institutions in which a Doctorate of Audiology, Au.D, or Doctorate of Philosophy, PhD, in Audiology can be pursued. These institutions have a significant contribution to the growth in the field of Audiology and developing future clinicians and researchers. These graduates are qualified to provide the highest quality of hearing healthcare to children and adults residing in the state of Missouri and advance research related to hearing and balance systems. Also, the Central Institute for the Deaf (CID) is located in St. Louis, Missouri. The CID is fully accredited and nationally recognized. It is one of the leading institutions to teach children who are deaf and hard of hearing, and to empower families and professionals in St. Louis and worldwide to help children reach their fullest potential. The CID is fully accredited and nationally recognized.

In addition, there are two professional organizations in Missouri, the Missouri Academy of Audiology (MAA) and the Missouri Speech-Language-Hearing Association (MASH). These two state organizations provide a range of professional services including, networking, advocating, continuing education, and state licensure requirements, student outreach, expansion of services, political implications, and legislation. Overall efforts empower, members to advocate for the advancement of their professions to ensure access to the best quality services.

Source: Audiology Worldnews AAA special magazine interview Spring 2022