The San Diego State University (SDSU) and the University of California San Diego (UCSD) have joined forces to form the first AuD program in California, which will graduate its first cohort of doctors of audiology in May. The collaboration stands as a model for future audiology academic programs by creating a consortium that links the long-standing clinical audiology program at SDSU with the internationally known neurotology and neuroscience programs at UCSD. For UCSD, this collaboration meant the opportunity to bring a doctoral-level audiology faculty to UCSD and more broadly trained audiologists to the clinic.
The program is structured to maintain a balanced contribution from each campus and to minimize student travel time between the campuses, which are 15 miles apart. Students spend their first year at SDSU completing courses in hearing science, diagnostics, amplification, evoked potentials, pediatrics, and communication disorders across the lifespan and cultures. They are assigned on-campus practica in diagnostic audiology and amplification at the SDSU audiology clinic during both semesters and the summer.
During the second year, students are immersed in a medical environment at UCSD. Course content includes anatomy, physiology, development, pathophysiology, and treatment of auditory/vestibular disorders. Special attention is given to cochlear implants, vestibular assessment, auditory processing disorders, and genetics.
A unique aspect of program is the "preceptorship," in which each AuD student, along with a medical student and/or resident, works with the program's neurotologist in medical assessments, treatments, and surgeries. In addition, students participate in a supervised audiology clinical practicum in the same busy neurotology university clinic, where they gain diagnostic audiologic and vestibular testing and amplification experience with populations representing a variety of hearing and balance disorders.
In the third year, the students return to SDSU to complete advanced courses in vestibular assessment, evoked potentials, amplification, aural rehabilitation, psychoacoustics, aural rehabilitation, and hearing conservation. At this time, students are assigned to a clinical practicum three days each week in a variety of high-caliber off-campus clinical sites within San Diego County, including the Veterans Administration, Children's Hospital, Navy Medical Hospitals, private hearing aid dispensing practices, and public schools. The audiology clinic director coordinates these off-campus assignments and helps students apply for local and national externships during their final year. This coordination ensures that each student is afforded well-rounded, challenging clinical experiences and that the program maintains contact with these sites to monitor students' progress.
The program advances research and its clinical applications by integrating components into the student experience as well as by providing opportunities for scholarly collaboration between the two campuses. Students complete two research rotations, one on each campus, in which they participate or assist in ongoing faculty-directed research. These experiences may lead the student into an area that will serve as their required third-year doctoral project. Already, eight doctoral students have presented at national meetings.
The Making of a Consortium
In the process of transitioning to a doctor of audiology program, the two academic programs found the roots of their partnership in a 1960 mandate—the Master Plan for Education in California. This plan designated the University of California (UC) system exclusive jurisdiction for doctoral degrees, and stated that doctoral programs in the California State University (CSU) system must be offered jointly with a UC campus or private institution. Because all of the audiology master's programs resided in the CSU system, including the one offered at SDSU, the conversion to AuD programs in California proved challenging.
The biggest challenge for the joint program was to establish consensus between the two different university systems on program components, resource allocation, and faculty workload. Additional hurdles included coordinating the quarter system at UCSD and the semester system at SDSU. Tuition, health insurance, and financial aid arrangements also had to be established.
The joint program opened its doors in fall 2003 following several years of planning and 18 months acquiring university and state approvals.
Four years later, the joint program exceeds expectations by providing an AuD program that complements, enriches, and broadens existing graduate education at both UCSD and SDSU in the instructional, clinical, and research arenas. The program operates with an established set of bylaws and a six-member executive committee comprising three faculty from each campus, with oversight by the graduate deans of both campuses.
The program co-directors work together regularly to evaluate and improve operations and to keep faculty and administrators informed of developments. Faculty from both campuses participate in the admissions process, and they also develop and teach courses, provide clinical supervision, evaluate annual comprehensive practical and written exams, provide research rotations, mentor doctoral projects, hire faculty, and review student performance.
Although the joint program is still in the growing stages, the two universities have successfully demonstrated that by bringing together these closely allied professions, the students and faculty from both campuses benefit tremendously, and the patients are better served.