Miller School Faculty Recognized as Distinguished Early Career Professionals for Leadership, Volunteering, Advocacy

Audiologist Molly R. Smeal, Au.D., and speech-language pathologist Daniela Berrios, M.A. CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert AVEd, might be only a few years into their careers, but they have already made notable impacts.

From left, Molly R. Smeal, Au.D., and Daniela Berrios, M.A. CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert AVEd.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recently recognized Dr. Smeal, assistant professor of otolaryngology at the Miller School of Medicine, and Berrios, University of Miami Debbie School Auditory Oral Program, with the 2021 Distinguished Early Career Professional Certificate. The certificate recognizes professionals in audiology and speech-language pathology who are making impacts in leadership, volunteering or advocacy at the local, state or national level. Those recognized are 30 years of age or younger, or in the first five years of their careers.

A clinical and research audiologist for two years, Dr. Smeal spends about half of her time working with patients with hearing loss and implantable hearing devices, and the other half conducting studies focused on how genetics affect outcomes in patients with implantable devices. She has also developed and led initiatives at the local level, including programs for patients with single-sided deafness and a patient triage system that provides patients more efficient and direct access to care.

“I have tried to make leadership part of my early career and focus on initiatives locally and nationally in audiology because the field is changing so quickly,” Dr. Smeal said.

Dr. Smeal, who completed the first auditory implant fellowship at the UHealth Ear Institute before going into practice, said the Distinguished Early Career Professional Certificate reflects not just on her work but also of the Ear Institute and the Miller School of Medicine.

“I have learned leadership skills from our team at the Miller School, where we have expert professionals and forward thinkers in the field who practice at the top of their scope,” Dr. Smeal said.

Berrios has practiced for four years at the Debbie School, part of the Miller School’s Mailman Center for Child Development, which was established 50 years ago.

“The Debbie School’s mission has allowed me to have opportunities to participate in research, training and service, which also is the focus of the Distinguished Early Career Professional Certificate,” Berrios said.

Berrios works closely with state legislators to advocate on behalf of patients. She travels annually to Florida’s capital in Tallahassee with a family affected by bilateral hearing loss to advocate for auditory-oral funding, as well as coverage for pediatric hearing aids. Advocating for auditory-oral funding helps the Debbie School, which is funded through the state Department of Education and the Department of Health, train and educate professionals and families as well as help children who are diagnosed with hearing loss.

“Pediatric hearing aids are considered cosmetic and are not covered by insurance,” said Berrios. “Obtaining coverage is an ongoing and complex piece of legislation that is in progress, but the bill has not yet been passed.”

Berrios also conducts and presents research done through the Debbie School’s partnership with the UHealth Children’s Hearing Program.

For Berrios, receiving the Distinguished Early Career Professional Certificate is symbolic of her moving forward in her career.

“I have personally invested in building capacity and inspiring future professionals to become involved and passionate about the population of children with hearing loss. This certificate allows me to reach a larger audience and continue the momentum toward those goals,” Berrios said.

The certificate also highlights the importance of the partnership between the Children’s Hearing Program and the Debbie School.

“The Miller School does such an amazing job of bringing the best of the best. I feel like being surrounded by so many accomplished and motivated professionals has provided me with this invaluable experience and pushed my career,” said Berrios, who also recently received the Listening and Spoken Language Specialist Certification from the Alexander Graham Bell Association.

“We have children with hearing loss who need professionals with specialized skills, particularly for families who choose amplification in a listening and spoken-language approach. The Listening and Spoken Language Specialist Certification allows us to offer those skills. There are fewer than 1,000 of us worldwide, and only about 36 of us in the state of Florida,” Berrios said. “Now I am able to mentor future speech-language professionals on this specialized type of intervention.”

Tags: audiology, Daniela Berrios, Dr. Molly R. Smeal, speech pathology, University of Miami Ear Institute