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Montefiore Physician Awarded Research Grant to Develop Tablet Application for Children with Cochlear Implants

Research Goal to Advance Coordination of Therapies between Hospital and Home
and Improve Speech Outcomes
 

New York City, NY (July 17, 2012) Elena Willis, MD Resident Physician, Department of Otorhinolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, Montefiore Medical Center, has been awarded a $10,000 Resident Research Grant by The American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, sponsored by The Oticon Foundation, to develop a tablet computer app to help improve the speech of children with cochlear implants.

Dr. Willis was awarded the grant after submitting an abstract and meeting the requirements to develop original research that is well-conceived and scientifically valid, with the potential to advance otolaryngology. The idea to develop an app which could help young children (between two and five years old) to improve their speech after having received cochlear implants, originated when Dr. Willis recognized the disparities between the therapies these children receive in the hospital setting compared to the home environment. Dr. Willis will use the grant to create an app that can be adapted and customized to each patient’s individual needs. The app will include interactive games that will allow progressive development of speech functionality and the capability of storing performance data to provide a mediator between home and hospital therapy.

“Having spoken with parents, speech therapists and various faculty members, we realized there was insufficient coordination between hospital therapies and home instruction,” said Dr. Willis. “In order to improve the speech outcomes for these children, we need to take a multidisciplinary approach to post-implant treatment, including encouraging treatment at home, as well as at the hospital. With the advancement of technology and children’s natural attraction to tablet devices we believe that an interactive app will be an easy-to-use tool that will engage children while simultaneously helping to develop their speech.”

John Bent, MD, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore and Director of Montefiore’s cochlear implant program, is Dr. Willis’ mentor for this research project and has also been designated co-investigator.

“Therapy after cochlear implantation focuses on development of functional language but traditional speech therapy lacks portability and real-time objective assessment measures,” said Dr. Bent. “As no interactive tablet software currently exists, Dr. Willis’ goal is to create a personalized home training application that can be used in conjunction with the therapies provided by medical experts.”

Dr. Willis plans to create the application in collaboration with Andrea Vambutas, MD, Associate Professor of Clinical Otorhinolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery, The Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, Laurie S. Eisenberg, Ph.D, at The House Ear Institute, The Hough Ear Institute of Oklahoma City, OK,  and her sister, Valerie Willis, a professional toy designer with experience in software programming for children.

“Dr. Willis’ passion for patient care has been recognized by a world renowned organization. She has shown enthusiasm and a deep commitment to improving the continuum of care for children who have received cochlear implants,” said Marvin P. Fried, MD, FACS, University Chairman, Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Montefiore Medical Center. “This grant will enable research that will provide a connection between home and hospital treatment sessions and ultimately be an invaluable tool in the rehabilitation of children with cochlear implants.”

The research project will last for one year and results of the investigation will be presented at the AAO-HNS Foundation Annual Meeting upon completion.

For more information, please call Irene Massallo, Patient Care Coordinator, The Children's Hospital at Montefiore Cochlear Implant Program on 718-741-2527.