May is Better Hearing & Speech Month. During this time, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) Newborn Hearing Screening Program (NHSP) and Pediatric Audiology Program would like to reflect and honor a long time partner whose efforts affected all children born in the state of Oklahoma. The caring, compassionate, and humble Merl Simmons, MD, FAAP, an Oklahoma pediatrician and the Oklahoma Newborn Hearing Screening Program’s (NHSP) Chapter Champion passed away Feb. 12, 2020, at age 67. Merl is survived by his wife, Rona Simmons and by his loving family.
Dr. Simmons served for almost 20 years as the first Oklahoma AAP Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Chapter Champion. The AAP EHDI Chapter Champion program was established in 2001. The role is completely voluntary so this commitment was above and beyond his obligations and responsibilities as a pediatrician. He tirelessly and selflessly partnered with NHSP to help improve outcomes for Oklahoma children with hearing loss. He was a member of the Oklahoma Audiology Task Force (OKAT). He was recognized this year posthumously by the Oklahoma Speech Language Hearing Association (OSHA) with the Distinguished Service Award.
As defined by the AAP, EHDI Chapter Champions must commit to the following:
- Collaborate with the state's department of human services/department of public health staff and others in state government agencies on EHDI activities and initiatives
- Provide leadership, guidance and education to pediatricians and other pediatric health care providers in the state on EHDI issues and activities
- If possible, attend the annual national EHDI conference to further their EHDI education
- Provide education to members of their respective AAP chapters and others in the state on EHDI activities
- Participate in topic-specific educational conference calls offered by various agencies, organizations and the AAP to further their own EHDI knowledge and education
- Attend and participate in the state EHDI hearing screening advisory committee meetings/conference calls
- Collaborate with their peers to influence state-level policy and programs related to children who are identified with hearing loss.
Chapter Champions are dedicated, eager, and energetic people committed to improving systems and outcomes related to children with hearing loss at the local, state and chapter levels. This is the true definition of Dr. Simmons as our Chapter Champion. He will be missed and not forgotten. The groundbreaking work he did for Oklahoma children with hearing loss will carry on.
If you would like to learn more about early hearing detection and intervention in Oklahoma, feel free to reach out to the contact OSDH.NewbornHearing@health.ok.gov
Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) Newborn Hearing Screening Program (NHSP) and Pediatric Audiology Program
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