Gary P. Jacobson, Ph.D. ’78, 2022 Professional Achievement Award Recipient

“It was a combination of superb academic training at Kent State and a fearlessness to try new technologies that have enabled me to be successful as a clinician and as a researcher.”

Gary P. Jacobson, Ph.D. ’78, is an accomplished audiologist who has dedicated his career to helping others. He has spent more than 40 years making a difference for people facing issues with their hearing and balance through his work in the medical field, as well as his research and teaching.

Gary is a professor in the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the top program in audiology as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. He is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of American Academy of Audiology and a past editor of the American Journal of Audiology. These are two of the leading scientific publications in the field. He has authored and co-authored several textbooks and more than 140 articles.

“Gary is known as a wonderful teacher, a gifted mentor and a trusted colleague. He has guided the careers of many emerging professionals in both speech-language pathology and audiology,” Dr. Alex Johnson, provost emeritus, MGH Institute of Health Professions, said.

After finishing a bachelor’s degree at California State University, Fullerton in 1974, and a master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point in 1975, Gary began his doctoral program in audiology at Kent State University. His research focused on evoked potentials, a method of stimulating certain senses through electrical activity to examine nerve signals to the brain.

“My recollection of my years of training were that they were some of the most challenging years of my life. The evoked potential research I was conducting under the supervision of Donald P. Gans, Ph.D., required that I spend six hours during the day recording brain responses and later that evening, after everyone had gone home, I processed the data over another six hours,” Gary explained.

His hard work paid off when he completed his Ph.D. in 1978, and secured a position at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Cleveland to work in auditory and vestibular electrodiagnostic testing. Less than two years after starting this position, Gary was selected to serve as section chief for audiology and speech pathology in the Neurology Service at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center, where he worked from 1979-87. During that time, he was the director of both the Evoked Potentials Laboratory and the Intraoperative Evoked Potentials Program. From 1988-2003, he served as the director of the Division of Audiology at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.

“I could not have asked for more out of my training program,” Gary said of his doctoral studies at Kent State. “The training prepared me to be competitive with physician electrodiagnosticians in the research laboratory and clinic. My training also enabled me to be recruited to my first job that served as a springboard for future employment opportunities.”

In 2003, he joined the faculty of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he still works today. He has served as a principal advisor for more than a dozen doctoral students and more than 30 Doctor of Audiology student capstone projects.

“The total impact of this important career-long effort is realized through quality of life, communication and health outcomes of a large segment of individuals with hearing or balance problems,” Dr. Johnson said. “Gary has been committed to putting patient centered care as the reason for doing research, for providing evidence-based patient care and for training the next generation of students and scholars.”

In 2015, Gary received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the American Academy of Audiology, and in 2017, he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Balance Society. He has also served on the Board of Directors for the American Tinnitus Association and the Clinic Advisory Board for the Central Institute for the Deaf.

Gary credits both his enthusiasm for new technology and the training he received at Kent State for his long list of career accomplishments.

“It was a combination of superb academic training at Kent State and a fearlessness to try new technologies that have enabled me to be successful as a clinician and as a researcher,” Gary said.

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