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Meet Erica Gardner in our Doctor of Audiology program

Meet Erica Gardner in our Doctor of Audiology program. She is our featured Student Highlight #UAMSCHP

My name is Erica Gardner.
I grew up here in Little Rock. My parents moved to the city right before I was born and I graduated from Little Rock Central High School.

I chose Audiology because of my cousin, Aaron. Aaron was born with a permanent hearing loss and I became interested in the field because of my experiences with him over the years. I chose the Dept of Audiology & Speech Pathology – UAMS and UALR joint program because I knew it was a strong program with excellent experiential opportunities at partner institutions such as Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

My career goal is to be a pediatric audiologist at a large teaching hospital. I started working at Arkansas Children’s Hospital my second year of graduate school and fell in love with pediatrics and the opportunity to work with children with cochlear implants.

My favorite parts of the program have been my experiences in experiential settings such as Arkansas Children’s Hospital and Arkansas Otolaryngology Center, my mentorship from excellent faculty such as Dr. Sam Atcherson, and the willingness of the program to encourage and support my participation at the national level in the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

I plan to graduate in May 2019. After graduation I hope to become a pediatric audiologist in a hospital setting. Because of the influence of my mentors and my passion for learning, I am also considering PhD work in the future.

I don’t have a lot of free time currently, but when I do I typically go to Greers Ferry Lake with my friends and family…and of course my pup, Ellie. During the week I take walks around my neighborhood to get some fresh air and recharge in between study sessions.

My mother has been the biggest influence in my life and in my career. She inspires me to do my best, care deeply about others, and consider learning a lifetime endeavor. She also encourages me to find a work/life balance. When she knows I’ve been studying for several days for long hours, she will meet me at the Big Dam Bridge or at a coffee shop to wind down. She reminds me family and health should always come first.

I have had many challenges in graduate school, but I always have others around who help me overcome them. I am lucky to have a vast network of professors, clinical preceptors, and other students who are always there to offer a hand.

If I were to share a few words with future students, I would urge them to take all of the opportunities they are given. If a professor asks you to be a part of a research study, do it. If you get asked to be on the leadership council of a student organization, do it. If you are offered a chance to volunteer at a health fair, do it. Every opportunity is a chance to grow professionally and personally.

Parents and families of children with hearing loss motivate me. When I see the impact that our interventions and interactions have with the child and their families, I’m inspired to be the best clinician possible.

Although it is difficult to see myself as someone with the power to change the world, I have learned over the past two and half years that I can substantially contribute to changing the world for individuals and families who face communication challenges. I also have learned that through advocacy at the local and state and national level, my influence can be broader than I ever imagined possible. My favorite quote is from the poet, Mary Oliver. She writes: “Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

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