“Becoming a _____ Audiologist” is a continuation of the “So You Want to Be a _____ Audiologist” Interview series, and is dedicated to informing students of the vastness of audiology and how they can become the audiologist they never knew they wanted to be.
Dr. Patricia Mazzullo is a clinical audiologist at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. She specializes in vestibular testing.
Q: Give us a quick description of where you are currently working and the types of patients you treat.
A: I serve patients of all ages, including active duty service members, retired service members, their families, and our nation’s leaders. We have inpatient and outpatient services. Walter Reed is also the first stop in the US for service members who are wounded in global conflicts overseas.
Q: Where did you receive your degrees?
I received my bachelor’s degree at Temple University and my AuD at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY).
Q: What made you want to become a vestibular audiologist?
A: I always found vestibular audiology really interesting; I like that it is so challenging. It really makes you think sometimes, no matter how long you have been doing it. I also personally experience dizziness and vertigo, which helps me relate to my patients.
Q: What do you do as a vestibular audiologist? Do you solely do tests related to vertigo and balance issues or do you also work with hearing loss?
A: I perform vestibular assessments which may include videonystagmography (VNG), video head impulse test (vHIT), rotational chair, subjective visual vertical (SVV), vestibular evoked myogenic potentials (VEMPs), and platform posturography. I also treat BPPV with canalith repositioning. One of the cool things about my job is I can decide which tests are appropriate for each patient.
Another part of my job is to assist in military readiness. For example, if a military pilot experiences a vestibular issue, they must have a complete vestibular assessment prior to being cleared to fly. Some patients have vestibular issues secondary to a blast exposure or traumatic brain injury (TBI).
We host a military vestibular conference every year and have a multi-disciplinary dizzy clinic that meets regularly.
Outside of vestibular work, I also work with patients with hearing loss and tinnitus. I perform hearing tests and provide hearing aid services, including tinnitus sound generators.
Q: What opportunities do you remember from your (under)graduate career that helped you solidify your interest in vestibular audiology?
A: The vestibular course (I currently teach) helped solidify my interest in vestibular audiology. It was taught by my mentor turned colleague and friend, Dr. Jessica Galitoto.
Q: What kind of placements would you suggest to a student wanting to go into vestibular audiology?
A: I would suggest a hospital setting that offers vestibular testing. Don’t worry if you don’t get a lot of vestibular experience during your time as a student, most of my experience actually came after I graduated!
Q: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were deciding to go into vestibular audiology?
A: I wish I knew about the opportunities as a military audiologist earlier in my career, especially during the AuD program. Currently, I am a civilian employee but I may have pursued military audiology if I knew about it earlier. Otherwise, I can’t say there is anything I wish I knew before going into vestibular audiology!
Q: Is there anything else you want to say or suggest to students considering specializing in vestibular audiology?
A: Don’t be discouraged by limited vestibular experiences as a student. If it is something you are interested in, I would recommend applying for final year externships and jobs that offer vestibular testing. If you attend the AAA Conference, attend the vestibular presentations.
My advice is to NEVER stop learning! It is important to stay current with the research and discuss topics with your colleagues. I still read articles and research regularly. I also recommend having empathy; in my opinion, being able to understand and relate to your patients is one of the things that will make you a good audiologist.
This interview was completed by Adam Sulaiman, a second-year AuD student at the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan, New York. Adam is a member of the Communications Committee and his interests in audiology include diagnostics and vestibular audiology.
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