Breaking the Mold Name: Jason Tait Sanchez, PhD, CCC-A Title: Postdoctoral fellow, Edwin W. Rubel Laboratory, Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, University of Washington Location: Seattle, Washington Audiologist Jason Sanchez plays an acoustical drum set in a photo taken more than a decade ago. Today, Sanchez owns and plays an electric drum kit, ... In the Limelight
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In the Limelight  |   October 01, 2010
Breaking the Mold
Author Notes
  • Kellie Rowden-Racette, print and online editor for The ASHA Leader, can be reached at krowden-racette@asha.org.
    Kellie Rowden-Racette, print and online editor for The ASHA Leader, can be reached at krowden-racette@asha.org.×
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Hearing Disorders / Professional Issues & Training / In the Limelight
In the Limelight   |   October 01, 2010
Breaking the Mold
The ASHA Leader, October 2010, Vol. 15, 22. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.15122010.22
The ASHA Leader, October 2010, Vol. 15, 22. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.15122010.22
Name: Jason Tait Sanchez, PhD, CCC-A
Title: Postdoctoral fellow, Edwin W. Rubel Laboratory, Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, University of Washington
Location: Seattle, Washington
Audiologist Jason Sanchez plays an acoustical drum set in a photo taken more than a decade ago. Today, Sanchez owns and plays an electric drum kit, which allows him to control the volume, and he uses headphones to protect his hearing.
In 2000 Jason Sanchez was at a professional crossroads, both figuratively and literally. He was halfway through his clinical fellowship year in audiology at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio, but he just wasn’t feeling any excitement. Although he was drawn to audiology, he wasn’t entirely sold on becoming a clinician for the next 20 or 30 years. Contemplating two vastly different paths, he held in one hand the application to the Kent State PhD program; in the other, an application to the Harley Davidson Mechanical School in Florida.
“I kept thinking, if I’m going do something for 20 or 30 years of my life, I want it to be something that makes me happy,” Sanchez said. “I’ve always had a passion for motorcycles and it was a really difficult decision. At the time I just didn’t see myself as a clinician for the rest of my life.”
Luckily for the world of communication sciences and disorders, Sanchez’s advisors and mentors got hold of him before he packed his monkey wrench and drove off into the sunset. An up-and-coming audiologist, Sanchez is a skilled researcher, but he admits that his background for the profession isn’t exactly typical—and there have been bumps along the way.
For example, although most audiologists might shun the Harley culture with its penchant for noise, Sanchez’s beginnings as a drummer don’t exactly fall in line with activities that promote auditory health either. But in a serendipitous way it was these potentially deafening passions that nudged the former music major toward audiology. It all started with an introductory elective class in communication and hearing disorders in his sophomore year.
“At the time I thought I was going to be a professional drummer, so I thought it might be a good idea to learn about hearing loss and prevent the inevitable,” he said. One class led to another, and a year and a half later, Sanchez put down his drumsticks and picked up an otoscope.
“I fell in love with what audiologists do,” he said. “It completely surprised me.”
But there was another sharp curve in his road. Halfway through the first year of his PhD program, his advisor began moving away from clinical electrophysiology research to focus more on science-based neurobiology research. There was no other lab at Kent State that was doing anything remotely related to Sanchez’s research focus and he was faced with either finding a new advisor or leaving the university. Taking a leap of faith, Sanchez decided to stick with his advisor and hope for the best.
He was not very excited about the change initially, but after he endured a “tough lesson in basic biology” and became familiar with the subject matter, he realized he might have found his true path and was actually…happy. Today his research is focused on the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate, and the development of its postsynaptic receptors in neurons responsible for encoding binaural hearing. He hopes the results of his research will help audiologists better understand how the auditory system develops so that they can diagnose and treat disorders more effectively. And this research, Sanchez said, is something he can see himself doing for the long haul.
“I love the process of asking questions,” he said. “During my clinical year I had all these questions and the research lab was the perfect realm in which I could work to answer them. I love what I do because on a daily basis I can ask ‘why’ and then I can test it. As long as I have the funding and support, I can go out and answer these questions.”
And although Sanchez has found his true path, he still must reconcile his many passions. He still plays the drums, but some lifestyle changes, such as getting married and becoming a father, have put his motorcycle days on hiatus—at least for now.
“Will I ever own another motorcycle again? It depends on who you ask,” he laughed. “One day. Maybe. We’ll see how it works out.”
Contact Jason Sanchez at sanchj@u.washington.edu.
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October 2010
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