Kirstin E. Chiasson
Director, Audiology Clinic, Cascade ENT and Facial Plastic
Klamath Falls, Oregon
Certificate of Clinical Competence, Audiology
2000 PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison
1994 MA, San Jose State University
1992 BA, University of California, Santa Barbara
Speech and Hearing Sciences
I chose an academic/research career because:
Two research audiologists, Janet Shanks and Cynthia Fowler,
revealed the exciting world of research to me during a summer
traineeship at the Long Beach VA (Veterans Affairs Healthcare
What do you do in your career as a teacher, scholar,
I am a clinic director, clinician, clinical researcher, and
adjunct professor. As a clinical director and clinician, I spend
time providing clinical services in a rural setting. Ninety
percent of my time is spent with patients or providing education
to our local medical community. When I am not in the clinic, I
collect new data, work on data that were collected over the last
few years, and try to dream up new, clinically relevant research
questions that I can answer while working with a clinical
population. I also have the pleasure of teaching anatomy,
psychology, and medical terminology at a local university. The
best part about teaching as an adjunct at a university with no
speech and hearing program is that I can recruit students to
careers within audiology and speech-language pathology.
What were the key factors in your academic/research
For me the key factor in making career decisions has been
balance. I enjoy living in small towns with access to outdoor
activities. To date, I have managed to find jobs that are both
career-friendly (e.g., allow me to be a clinician, researcher,
and teacher) as well as located in an area that allows for
cross-country skiing, boating, camping, hiking, etc. The
wonderful thing about the field of audiology is that it can take
you anywhere you want to go.
How did you get to the position you have today?
I wandered a bit from tenure-track position to tenure-track
position. While I was in my second year of a tenure-track
position, I met my husband. He was offered a fantastic,
once-in-a-lifetime position at a research center in Oregon.
Unfortunately, the university that housed the position did not
have a Communication Disorders department. I was, however,
offered an adjunct position in the departments of Psychology and
Natural Sciences. Even though I was giving up my own tenure-track
position, I figured I had enough data to sustain me for a few
years. Within 3 weeks of moving to the small town of Klamath
Falls, the only local ENT called and asked me to be the director
of his audiology clinic. The clinical offer included time for
research as well as time to travel to national and international
meetings. Following my husband to a small town helped me find the
ideal job-a little teaching, a little clinic, and a little
What do you like most about your career?
My career has been one that has been flexible and
family-friendly. I have been able to live in some amazing places,
work with very seasoned researchers and teachers, and keep my
clinical skills up to date. I have been able to work in
tenure-track positions at both research institutes and teaching
institutes. I have also been able to work in a large hospital and
a small rural clinic. There are not very many careers that allow
you to step from one role to another and back again.
What do you like least about your career?
I wish I had taken the time to do a postdoc. When I graduated
with my PhD, money was an issue, and I did not see how I could
work at postdoc pay while making ends meet. Not taking a postdoc
is my one regret.
Who are your heroes/heroines?
My heroes are my patients. They remind me how far we have come,
how much great research has been carried out, and how much more
we need to learn.
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?
Get involved! Seek out your professors and volunteer in their
labs. Don't be afraid to work outside of communicative
disorders. If you enjoy a class, even one lecture, ask that
professor if you can work in his or her lab. Make opportunities
happen for yourself.
What was the best thing about your PhD program?
The people. I went to a program that had multiple doctoral
students. Having classmates and colleagues really made the tough
time easier. My classmates are now my colleagues and good
friends. We even still collaborate on projects.
If you did your PhD program or your early career years
all over again, what would you do differently?
I would definitely do a postdoc. Our field is full of open
academic jobs, and the money is very alluring. But the experience
gained from a postdoc is priceless. Many universities expect
publications in the first year of hire. This means that you
really need to come into the job with a publication about to be
accepted and more data ready to be shaped into the next
publication. Setting up a lab and starting to gather data is a
time-consuming endeavor. Having data from a postdoc as well as
experience running a lab makes the first several years of an
academic job much easier.
How do you find balance between your professional
activities and your personal life? What do you do to
My professional life has always allowed me time to have a
personal life. This is because I have made it a priority to
accept positions that are reasonable in the
"productivity" expectation. I take work home, I work on
the weekend, and I take work on the road. But I also ignore
e-mail, leave my work at work, and take time to spend with my
family-no interruptions. Right now my favorite way to relax is to
chase my 17-month-old around a park. I am in training for skate
skiing (cross-country), and keeping up with a 17-month-old is a
fantastic aerobic workout.
What will you be doing 5 years from now? 10 years from
I will be a clinician, a teacher, and a researcher. I will be
putting my research into practice, recruiting health sciences
majors into the exciting field of audiology, and contributing to
the field of pediatric audiology. I hope to be mentoring a new
generation of research audiologists.