In her role at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, Megan Eitel ’17 Au.D is working to assess how different facets of chronic phase recovery from traumatic brain injury (TBI) affect the emotional, sensory and cognitive aspects of a military service member’s life.
Eitel is part of an interprofessional team that, with funding from the Henry Jackson Foundation, is conducting longitudinal research on the natural history of TBI in the military population. Her primary duties involve testing active service members and veterans in a variety of traditional and novel auditory and vestibular tasks. Her favorite part of her job, however, is the opportunity to work directly with service members and veterans. “I strive to make a positive impact on the care that they receive, by better understanding the progression of their injuries over the course of their lives,” she tells us.
The graduate audiology program at Montclair State prepared Eitel for her career by providing a well-rounded education in her field. “The location of Montclair State provides the opportunity to get clinical training in an extensive variety of settings and patient populations,” she says. “This is not always available in more rurally located areas.”
The University’s connections throughout the country served Eitel well also, when faculty from the research traineeship program introduced her to the prospect of research audiology through a summer of intensive training in Portland, OR. “Without the professionals I met through this program, I would not be in the career that I am today.”
“The entire faculty at Montclair State collectively worked together to make sure that they were available, supportive, and approachable,” Eitel says. “Dr. Joanne Howard, my first clinical supervisor, gave me confidence in my clinical skills. Her reassurance was so important to me as I entered a patient-driven profession.”
“Also, Montclair State has many current practicing audiologists from the nearby area on its faculty as associate professors,” she adds. “This often made it less intimidating to venture to outside clinical placements.”
The small class sizes in the audiology graduate program made it easy to build relationships with future colleagues, and that resulted in some of Eitel’s fondest memories of her time at Montclair State. “It makes all the difference to know that you have people who are on your team through the highlights as well as the tough times,” she says.
Eitel advises the students who follow her to Montclair State’s audiology program to explore as many different clinical and research settings as possible. “It is fine to have an ideal work setting and patient population in mind when you’re entering graduate school,” she says, “but you really don’t know what opportunities may present themselves. You could very easily find yourself in a setting that is different than your original plan. Work hard, be flexible, and approach things with an open mind.”
And for those who are struggling to find the confidence to reach for their dream of a career in audiology research, she offers encouragement. “Remember that no one started as an expert, be confident that you are developing the skills that you need, and don’t be afraid to ask questions along the way.”