It is not the first time Gaby Helena Saunders has set foot in Eriksholm Research Centre. The story of Gaby and our research centre actually goes a long way back – back to the days of her PhD which was co-supervised by Poul Erik Lyregaard, the first director of Eriksholm.
More recently, only a few years ago, she completed a collaborative project with Eriksholm researchers Ariane Laplante-Lévesque and Claus Nielsen.
Even though she spent the last 27 years in the US, Gaby did not hesitate to pack her bags (and her husband !) and leave for Denmark when the position of manager for the eHealth group at Eriksholm opened up.
“I once did a collaborative project with Eriksholm, and when I came here, I felt like I was at home, so when this position came up I was excited to apply for it. I have always admired the work that comes out of Eriksholm,” says Gaby Saunders.
Broad and deep skills
Senior Director Uwe Hermann is pleased that Gaby is now joining Eriksholm as the new eHealth manager.
“Our managers must be highly skilled academics and at the same time be experienced in product development. Gaby is fitting perfectly into this profile, and she has been working with Eriksholm for many years, so we know each other very well,” says Uwe. He is making it clear that he thinks Gaby has many skills important for the job.
“It is through her unique combination of research, participation in committees and task forces, and her relationships with professional audiology organizations that she developed her broad and deep skills,” says Uwe.
Applying health psychology to audiology
After finishing her undergraduate degree in Human Biology and Psychology, Gaby, not knowing anything about hearing or hearing loss, did a PhD in Audiology and Psychology at the MRC Institute of Hearing Research. Then being hooked on hearing she moved from her home country of England to New York City to do a postdoc.
She ended up staying in the US for the next 27 years where she worked at City University of New York, in New Jersey at the VA, and then for two start-up companies in California. Later she moved to Portland, Oregon where she was a research investigator and eventually became Associate Director of the VA National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research (NCRAR).
”My research has always been the human side of hearing. I’m a great believer in applying knowledge from other fields to my research. For example, health psychology is a field that existed since the 1950s but only recently did I and others apply the principles of health psychology to understanding why people make the choices they do about their hearing and hearing aids,” explains Gaby Saunders.
As one of the first people who reached into health psychology and applied it to audiology, she became a very well respected scientist.
“eHealth raises opportunities”
Gaby’s human centered approach also becomes apparent when asked what difference she is hoping eHealth can do within the field.
“eHealth raises opportunities beyond simply providing remote care. It allows for sophisticated real time hearing aid adjustments using algorithms developed with vast data sets collected by many users,” she says and continues:
“70-80 percent of people who could benefit from hearing aids don’t use them. To me a big issue is: how do we reach these 70-80 percent? How can we change their attitudes, beliefs and behaviors? I think we have a better chance of reaching them through eHealth than through expecting them to show up in a clinic.”
Gaby hopes to manage a research program that will make a real impact on the lives of people with hearing impairment and their families. She is therefore looking forward to be part of an academic institution where the research is easy to apply to the everyday life of hearing aid users.
“I like to think that some of my ideas can be implemented into Oticon’s hearing aids and hearing management approach. It would be exciting to see an impact, and I think that this will be possible here,” says Gaby.
Gaby Saunders is replacing Ariane Laplante-Lévesque as eHealth manager and started working at Eriksholm Research Centre on the 1st of August 2018.