Brazilian Audiology loses Dr. Maria Cecília Bevilacqua

Renowned researcher, great exponent of the field and promoter of public hearing health policies, in 1990 Dr. Maria Cecília Bevilacqua helped introduce a cochlear implant program at the “Little Center” and set up the Hearing Research Center, now a major CI center in South America. She was President of the ABA from 2009 to 2011 and with her team started talks with the Ministry of Health to include the FM system in NHS procedures.

Dr. Maria Cecília Bevilacqua died on 28th July, aged 66, from cancer. Trained in sound audiology at the PUC-SP (1970), Maria Cecília Bevilacqua had obtained her master’s degree in Communication and Psychology Disorders (1978) and doctorate in Educational Psychology (1985), also at the PUC-SP. She was a full professor of the Bauru Dental Faculty (University of São Paulo). In 1990, the sound audiologists helped her husband – the ear specialist Orozimbo Alves Costa Filho (with her on the below picture) – to set up the cochlear implant program and the Audiology Research Center at the Bauru Cranial and Facial Rehabilitation Hospital (HRAC known as the “Little Center”).

The ARC was the first center in the country to perform multichannel cochlear implant surgery and became the largest cochlear implant center in South America. The landmark of one thousand operations was recorded in September, 2011 and at present eight to ten cochlear implants are performed every month. In 2000, the Bionic Ear Unit was added to the São Paulo Samaritan Hospital. Today it is the leading private CI center in the country, with over 200 operations performed.

“Reaching the people at the grass roots of the system”

Since 2003, Maria Cecília Bevilacqua took part in World Wide Hearing, which was an offshoot of the World Health Organization, promoting hearing health models aimed at low-income people, which was a very important subject for the sound audiologist. “The main aim of this association is one of my beliefs for Brazil: to succeed in reaching the people with hearing defects at the grass roots of the system, who are not being treated because they have no NHS centers”, she had explained to the journal Audio infos in 2008. A founder member of the Brazilian Sound Audiology Society (1988), Maria Cecília Bevilacqua was also involved in the setting up of the Brazilian Audiology Academy (2001) and was president of it from 2009 to 2011.

During the two-year period there were several events (picture below). In 2010, together with the International Audiology Society – at that time presided over by Dr. Iêda Chaves Pacheco Russo –, the 30th International Audiology Congress (IAC) was organized, which registered almost one thousand entries, a record for the event. During the ICA, the first book of the Brazilian Academy “Hearing health in Brazil: policies, services and systems” was published. The next year (2011), the Treatise on Audiology (published by Santos) came out; it was a book containing over 800 pages referring to specialized Areas of Audiology and made up of contributions from national authors. Another major action started by the 2009-2011 management was the expansion of the link with the Ministry of Health and Education with a view to including the frequency modulation system in a public health program.

“It was in this period that the seed was sown for continuing the joint work which was extended so as to carry out in 2012 the Hearing Impairment Qualification Project and use of the FM system for Professional in the Field of Education nationwide, coordinated by Dr. Cecilia together with the MEC”, Dr. Sheila Andreoli Balen, first 2009-2011 management secretary 2009-2001 remembers. The survey’s conclusion was challenging. “It took weeks and months of intensive work to complete a task that it seemed impossible to carry out in a year by 24 researchers from five regions in the country, with 99 specialist educational care teachers and 202 hearing impaired children with the FM system, but Dr. Cecília’s skill, her firm eye in setting up the team and her leadership ability were determining factors for achieving the goals proposed to the MEC”, Sheila Andreoli Balen recalls. The work and the commitment were borne out in Decree no. 1,274 of 25th June, 2013, which includes the Frequency Modulation System in the list of procedures of the Brazilian National Health Service.

Looking for the best for Brazilians with hearing impairment

Renowned researcher and director, promoter of the Brazilian National Health Service, Maria Cecília Bevilacqua acted and fought throughout her career for Brazil to have high-standard hearing health government programs. In her life directed towards the welfare of others, as Sheila Andreoli Balen points out “her strength as a Brazilian citizen, seeking in her research work to be able to apply science, to achieve social responsibility, to understand the scope of Brazil, by decentralizing science and Sound Audiology to set up two large centers and to propose changes that would have feasible solutions with scientific proof through association with Town Councils, States and the Federation, in order to include new Public Policies in the field of Hearing Health.”

Maria Cecília Bevilacqua’s legacy to Brazilian audiology cannot be set out in so few lines. She will be remembered as a great person in the field, generous and exemplary in her tireless search for the best for Brazilians with hearing impairment. She is an inspiration for all professionals working in the field, as acknowledged by the current President of the Brazilian Academy, Dr. Edilene Boéchat: “Prof. Dr. Maria Cecília Bevilacqua was unique in her desire to transform Audiology in Brazil. She was successful, and none of us will be the same again after having had the privilege to know her.”

Stéphane Davoine, editor in chief of Audiology Infos Brazil

Translation: C.D.A., Photos: Eliana Soares, FOB-USP, S.D., A.B.A.