Student's Say: Is There a Double Doctor in the House? AuD in hand, this audiologist still had an unsatisfied thirst for understanding of her field. So she went back to school for a PhD. Student's Say
Student's Say  |   August 01, 2013
Student's Say: Is There a Double Doctor in the House?
Author Notes
  • Samantha Gustafson, AuD, CCC-A is a second-year PhD student in the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences at Vanderbilt University.
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Student's Say
Student's Say   |   August 01, 2013
Student's Say: Is There a Double Doctor in the House?
The ASHA Leader, August 2013, Vol. 18, 58. doi:10.1044/leader.SSAY.18082013.58
The ASHA Leader, August 2013, Vol. 18, 58. doi:10.1044/leader.SSAY.18082013.58
With eight years of college and two degrees under my belt, friends and family ask how it's possible that I'm still a student. My answer is simple: I still have questions.
Research was my gateway to audiology. As an undergraduate student working in an audiology research lab, I became interested in this wonderful field. Contrary to the view that all researchers dislike clinic, I thoroughly enjoy being a clinician. During my four-year clinical program, connecting with patients and their families was positive and uplifting.
However, I heard the all-too-familiar whisper of the research bug in my ear throughout my clinical education. Additional research experiences—volunteering in a lab and completing a summer research traineeship—satisfied my thirst for research during my first three years. It wasn't until my clinical externship that I discovered how much these research experiences meant to me. During my first taste of full-time clinic, I quickly realized that I look at situations with a research eye. When issues arise in clinic and patients ask me questions, I think of these as personal challenges.
Making the decision to pursue a PhD after my AuD required a bit of soul searching. Could I really return to school a short three months after I graduated? Am I crazy to sign up for another four-plus years? What does this extra degree really mean for me?
Based on my graduate school experiences, I know this choice is right. Having both degrees will open doors for me that neither degree can open alone. In obtaining an AuD before my PhD, I am able to ask more clinically relevant questions, and will always be able to supplement my career as a researcher with my skill and qualifications as a clinician.
Perhaps even more daunting than the decision to pursue a PhD was the task of choosing a school. As I discussed my situation with professors and researchers, I compiled some consistent advice:
  • It's all about the mentor, so make sure you're a good match. If you are considering a PhD, talk with potential mentors—be honest about your interests, even if you are uncertain about them.

  • Don't be nervous about contacting someone—people love it when someone is interested in their work.

  • Talk with current and previous students of your potential mentors, and ask them to be honest about their experiences. They were in your shoes, once—learn from their challenges and successes.

  • Visit the campus and meet with people in the department. This place will be your home for a number of years, and it is important to feel comfortable and supported.

When I first decided to pursue my AuD, I received skeptical encouragement from friends and family members who didn't quite understand why graduate school needed to be four years. This skeptical encouragement turned into confusion when I explained that I was earning a clinical doctoral degree, not a PhD. Now that I've begun my PhD program, friends and family have come to terms with what they see as my career choice: professional student. I am excited to say that I am beginning to agree with them.
Of course, I have rough days when I find myself browsing for clinical openings around the country, but then I remember why I'm here: to better equip myself to find answers to my many, many questions.
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August 2013
Volume 18, Issue 8