American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Brenda L. Lonsbury-Martin

Research Service

Jerry Pettis Memorial Veterans Medical Center
Loma Linda, California

Brenda Lonsbury-Martin 1976-1978 Postdoctoral Fellowships
University of California/Irvine (Psychobiology)
University of Washington (Physiology and Biophysics)

1975 PhD, Oregon Health Sciences University
Medical Neuroscience and Biochemistry

1971 MS, University of Oregon Medical School
Medical Neuroscience and Cell Biology

1968 BA, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada
Psychology and Zoology

I chose an academic/research career because:
I wanted to make a contribution toward determining how the brain influences human behavior.

What do you do in your career as a teacher, scholar, and/or researcher?
In my administrative position at ASHA, where I was associated with the Science and Research and Communications units, I facilitated a number of programs aimed at providing members at various stages of their careers with information ranging from cutting-edge research to winning approaches to building a successful academic career. As part of ASHA, I had the opportunity to constantly represent the importance of research in forwarding the primary goal of our profession to alleviate the adverse effects of communication disorders. My relationship with the Association also permitted me to advocate more effectively than I could as an individual member for better funding of research into the fundamental basis of communication disorders and their most effective treatments, because of the well-developed connections between ASHA and the federal agencies that fund their members.

In my academic life, I primarily conduct federally funded research on developing measures of otoacoustic emissions into optimal diagnostic tests of the status of cochlear function. In this capacity, I teach graduate and medical students along with postdoctoral fellows and resident physicians about research methods. Additionally, I also supervise the research projects conducted by both graduate students and residents. I am also involved in teaching the basic science of hearing in various class formats to medical and neuroscience graduate students as well as otolaryngology residents. As part of my academic life, I am also on the executive boards of several professional societies to which I belong. Along with services as an associate editor for several journals representing the areas of hearing science, audiology, and otology and neurotology, I also serve on several national committees that fund research in the communication sciences and disorders fields.

How did you get to the position you have today?
While I was an undergraduate student, I had a unique opportunity to become a research assistant in a neuropsychology clinic based at my university. At that time, clinical neuropsychology was in its infancy, and I was truly blessed in being exposed to some of the original founders of that field, including Hans Lucas Teuber, Brenda Milner, and Doreen Kimura, during their visits to our laboratory. I had always planned on being a public school teacher, but my exposure to patients exhibiting the aftereffects of both natural and accidental brain injuries whetted my appetite for gaining a better understanding of the neural basis of human behavior. Thus, I specifically applied to a graduate school within a medical school setting that also had a neuropsychology program. In the end, although I chose the basic scientist rather than the clinician pathway, I kept a close association with the diagnostic side of the field by both working as a neuropsychometrician and completing a master's degree in the neurology department in the epilepsy area. Being at the University of Oregon Medical School where there also was a Kresge Hearing Research Laboratory-headed up at that time by Jack Vernon-attracted me to the peripheral auditory system at a time that I had the realization that the most straightforward approach to understanding brain determinants of behavior was to study a sensory system at its initial input stages to the central nervous system. Thus, given the setting I trained in, it is not surprising that I became a hearing scientist with interests in both normal and abnormal auditory perception.

What were the key factors in your academic/research career decision(s)?
It was my exposure to Jack Vernon and his hearing research colleagues-Catherine Smith, Robert Brummett, and Mary Meikle-that made me realize that I had to be more than a "pure" academic neuroscientist, that is, that I would only be truly rewarded by a career in which I was investigating the underlying mechanisms of human hearing diseases such as noise-induced hearing loss, ototoxicity, Meniere's disease, and sudden idiopathic sensorineural hearing loss. It was in the Kresge Laboratory setting that I also learned the powerfulness of combining observations made in experimental models of ear diseases with their relevant patient counterparts.

What do you like most about your career?
I really enjoy communicating about the findings of the experiments that are conducted in my laboratory, which involves both describing such outcomes succinctly in peer-reviewed journal articles as well as speaking about them as a presenter at a national or international meeting, or at an academic center as a visiting professor. Also, I really enjoy reading about original research in manuscripts that are submitted for publication to the journals with which I am associated. It is very exciting to become knowledgeable about ongoing research before its findings are widely distributed, especially if it involves a topic of interest. Finally, I really enjoy being able to apply the findings our laboratory uncovers in a disease model toward better understanding the basis of patient complaints. This capability, of course, depends on having a satisfying working relationship with the audiology and otology/neurotology clinicians with whom I partner in my research endeavors.

What do you like least about your career?
The administrative requirements (i.e., the paperwork) demanded by all the regulations that guide research life these days along with the pressures of consistently obtaining federal funding to cover the considerable costs of conducting research.

Who are your heroes/heroines?
I will always be grateful to my earliest mentor, William H. Gaddes, who was the head of the neuropsychology clinic of my undergraduate days, for having enough confidence in my abilities to help me modify my original course of thinking that I could only be a schoolteacher. It was very satisfying to unexpectedly discover only within the past few years that Bill Gaddes, who in post-Brenda days became a renowned textbook author in the area of child learning, described me in a memoir of his early days at the University of Victoria as being one of his brightest students. Most certainly, my greatest heroines include the academic neurologist Janice R. Stevens, who mentored my master's thesis research, and Mary B. Meikle, who comentored my dissertation research. It was Jan who provided a successful model of how to be taken seriously, but in a nonthreatening manner, as a female scientist in the male-dominated medical center setting, and Mary who illustrated the powerfulness of precise logical thinking in both planning experiments and interpreting their subsequent results.

What advice would you give to an undergraduate or master's student who expressed an interest in an academic/research career in communication sciences and disorders?
My advice would be to select an academic setting that has an outstanding program in communication sciences and disorders and to not be afraid of getting involved in research early on, even if only in a cursory manner, because of the burden of class work. It will be this early experience, even as an undergraduate, that will drive your ambition to make notable contributions to your field of interest.

What was the best thing about your PhD program?
By being in a school with a small graduate program, the faculty members were eager to teach their students all they knew about preparing for a research career. Thus, at a very young stage in learning about research, I had an opportunity to contribute to the writing and preparation of both scientific papers as well as applications to funding agencies. Very early on, I became aware of how difficult it was to maintain success in an academic research life. On the other hand, I quickly learned the joys of being successful, too, in having papers accepted for publication and in obtaining grant funding.

If you did your PhD program or your early career years all over again, what would you do differently?
Perhaps because my primary academic setting has always been a medical center, if I could start my education all over again, I would probably obtain either a medical degree or some sort of certification in a health-related field such as clinical audiology, along with my PhD. I think having credentials in both camps would make an investigator doubly competitive in obtaining research funding from both clinical and basic-science-oriented resources.

How do you find balance between your professional activities and your personal life? What do you do to relax?
Relaxing outside of a busy and demanding academic life is something that I only learned to do at a relatively late stage of my career. Toward this end, I combined my early love of the outdoors with the sport of golf, and this gets me in the great outdoors at a time that I can also enjoy my husband's companionship. I really recommend that in choosing such a career path, one needs to build this regular balance of work and home into their daily routine early on in the education process. The truth is that in the end, no one is missed from the "office" for very long, no matter how critical they were in its operations.

What will you be doing 5 years from now? 10 years from now?
Five years from now, I hope I am as productive in both my administrative and academic worlds as I am right now. Ten years from now, I hope I have gone full circle somewhat and am now sharing the wisdom gained from my lifetime of experiences by teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic to very young people in a public school setting!

Share This Page

Print This Page