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September 2, 2009

ULM's new Speech and Hearing Center dedicated to Kitty DeGree

The grand opening of the new Kitty DeGree Speech and Hearing Center on Sept. 2 was more than another occasion to gather dignitaries to thank Mrs. DeGree for her significant contribution – it represented the realization of a 40-year-old dream.

“To paraphrase Astronaut Neil Armstrong … we have arrived,” said Associate College of Health Sciences Dean Paxton Oliver, in his opening remarks.

The beautiful, state-of-the-art facility, located on the first floor of Sugar Hall on the University of Louisiana at Monroe campus, is a tribute to a philanthropist who has not only been one of the greatest supporters of the university, but who herself was diagnosed with hearing loss as a young adult.

“I know the value of the facility,” said DeGree. “You have to be hearing impaired to know how frustrating it is, and so this facility can be very helpful to those individuals.”

From just 900-square feet of clinical space in Brown Hall to more than 5,000-square feet, the new center is a milestone for the campus. It offers individual treatment rooms, each with a dedicated observation room equipped with a two-way intercom system, providing a much-needed expansion for ULM students to receive a top-notch clinical education, in a top-notch facility, under the guidance of excellent faculty and staff.

“It’s always great to open a student facility that provides hands-on experiences,” said ULM President James E. Cofer Sr. “We all have to remember, we’re about educating our students.”

College of Health Sciences Dean Denny Ryman said that in addition to providing a sound education, the center addresses serious “quality of life issues” by providing treatment to northeast Louisiana patients of all age ranges, regardless of their ability to pay.

The center provides a new and expanded patient care environment for individuals with a variety of communication needs such as articulation, language, voice, fluency, swallowing, and hearing.

In addition to the treatment rooms, the new space also includes eight individual therapy rooms, a large group therapy room, a research lab, a student clinical preparation room, and an audiology suite. Video observation capabilities are available in each therapy room for the purpose of supervision.

Some of the services the facility provides include voice rehabilitation, where people who have lost the ability to speak are taught how to vocalize using a mechanical larynx, and accent modification, an elective service where people are taught to speak without a dialect. Hearing tests are also available to the public.

Graduate student clinicians supervised by nationally certified and state licensed speech-language pathology faculty provide services in the speech-language pathology portion of the Center, and hearing evaluations are provided by the audiologist in the audiology area of the Center.

Distinguished guests at the grand opening included State Representatives “Bubba” Cheney, Frank Hoffman, Sam Little, Kay Katz and State Senator Mike Walsworth. Various patient rooms were dedicated to supporters of the center, who were present at the ceremony.

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