Kathryn Dowd Awarded Caritas Medal for Improving Care for People With Hearing Impairment

The medal recognizes her work expanding awareness of audiology

After working on behalf of patients with hearing loss for over 41 years, Dr. Kathryn Dowd received Spalding University’s Caritas Medal, as the university’s alumna of the year.

The Caritas Medal is the highest award bestowed by Spalding University. Dowd’s work empowering patients and providers in the field of audiology has been a long and fruitful cause.

As the founder of The Audiology Project, Dowd continues to influence healthcare policies on a state and national level. The Audiology Project is dedicated to increasing awareness within healthcare settings of hearing impairments and links to other diseases.

Hearing impairment can be difficult to identify because the condition is invisible. As a result, some patients can be misdiagnosed. For example, children may be diagnosed with behavioral conditions, when the underlying cause is actually a hearing impairment.

“We’re a very small profession,” Dowd said. “There’s only 15,000 audiologists in the United States. Hopefully this will help our profession to grow. We need more people to know about audiology. When I started in audiology, I had never heard the word before. The more I took classes, the more I realized what it does and how it can help people.”

Dowd completed her undergraduate education at Spalding University in 1972. At Spalding, she majored in French Education and spent a junior year abroad at the Catholic Institute of Paris. Her time in France informs her work to this day. Dowd explained that adjusting to a new language often felt like a barrage of sounds, which required adjustment and time to decipher. Patients receiving hearing aids have similar experiences with sounds they have been unable to hear, at a volume that is new to them.

Additionally, Dowd says Spalding laid a great foundation for her to start her career, even though she pivoted away from teaching English in France.

“Spalding gave me the freedom to think outside the box and to not feel that I had to follow a certain path,” Dowd said. “It was a liberating experience. Spalding gave us building blocks for us to understand what it’s like to be out in the world.”

Initially, she pursued a career in nursing and later specialized in the field of audiology. She earned a Master in Education (MEd) in Audiology from the University of Louisville and later a Clinical Doctorate (AuD) in Audiology from Salus University.

In 2020 the Osborne College of Audiology named Dowd the national Audiologist of the Year. She previously received the Audiology Awareness Award from the Academy of Doctors of Audiology. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recognized Dowd for numerous articles in professional journals and increasing awareness regarding hearing loss and chronic diseases.

“I’m very honored to get an award,” Dowd said. “I don’t know that I deserve it over any of the other students that went to school with me. They’ve all excelled in things that they’ve done. We had a lot of people that succeeded in their work over the past 50 years.”