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Catherine Palmer, chair of Pitt's Communication Science and Disorders Dept.


Professor Catherine Palmer is the new chair of the Communication Science and Disorders (CSD) Department at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS), effective February 1, 2024. Palmer, currently serving as interim chair, is also professor in the School of Medicine’s Department of Otolaryngology and director of Audiology for the UPMC Integrated Health System. Palmer joined the university in 1990 and expanded her role as director of Audiology at UPMC in 1998. Since then, she has been a critical contributor to tremendous growth in both the CSD Department at Pitt and the Audiology service line at UPMC.

“I am very enthusiastic to welcome Dr. Palmer as chair of CSD. Since she has been here at Pitt, she has tirelessly served to move the field of audiology to new heights within the entire Pitt/UPMC environment,” expresses SHRS Dean Anthony Delitto. “More recently, her work aspires to address hearing deficits as a public health condition that can be addressed by improving accessibility to hearing care. I am confident that she will bring the CSD Department more success than ever before.” 

Palmer is eager to implement her vision for the future of Pitt’s CSD Department and its programs. “One of the challenges across the profession is moving important findings into practice. Although there are numerous programs, including ours, that focus on dissemination and implementation, without policy change many of the life-changing findings from our labs do not reach the people they are intended to help,” explains Palmer.

“We will achieve this through multiple mechanisms including increasing our ability to provide optimum clinical training experiences in Southwestern PA through strategic partnerships, expanding our reach through online education where appropriate, a renewed focus on meaningful continuing education offerings, and creating the Hearing and Communication Policy Center. We will be in the unique position to take evidence-based findings and impact policy through this newly founded Center.”

Dedicated to Teaching and Mentorship

Palmer has been director of Pitt’s Doctor of Audiology (AuD) program since its inception in 2007. She has also been an active mentor in the CSD PhD program and has advised numerous doctoral students who now hold leadership positions in the field.

To promote excellence in CSD education, Palmer has chaired the biennial University of Pittsburgh Teaching Conference since 2005. Most recently, she has served on the steering committee for the Audiology Clinical Education Network (ACEN) to promote excellence and consistency in Audiology externship education.

Her dedication to education includes more than 450 continuing education presentations. She has provided instruction across the United States as well as internationally, including courses and workshops in China, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and Hong Kong.

Palmer receiving the 2023 Honors of the Academy award

Palmer receiving the American Academy of Audiology Honors of the Academy award in 2023.

Engaged in Research of Impact

Palmer’s research program focuses broadly on the relationship between hearing, cognitive health and health outcomes, and matching technology to individual needs. Her current work is focused on developing delivery models that support the identification of hearing loss and provision of hearing assistance in health care settings where individuals cannot fully participate in decision making if their communication is compromised by hearing loss.

She has published over 150 peer-reviewed research articles, book chapters and invited papers as well as providing over 250 national and international research presentations. Palmer has received research support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, National Alzheimer Association, Department of Veterans Affairs, NIH, Department of Defense, Hearst Foundation, and the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) among other generous foundations.

Driven to Serve

Palmer provides service at every level of the university, nationally and internationally. She has served on numerous American National Standards Institute (ANSI) committees, professional guidelines working groups and specialized task forces. She has been active in both the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) including serving as AAA president from 2018-2021. She received the American Academy of Audiology Presidential Award for her “significant contributions to the AAA and the profession of Audiology” in 2022 and received the Honors of the Academy in 2023.

She is currently the chair of the AAA Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Task Force, serves as the editor-in-chief of Seminars in Hearing and as a consultant to the National Board of Medical Examiners related to their Disability Services.

Palmer was part of the team that brought together the Eye and Ear Foundation, Pitt CSD, UPMC Audiology and the Schweitzer Fellowship Team that implemented free hearing clinics for Southwestern PA to serve individuals who do not have access to hearing care. This program has expanded to include three free hearing clinics and involvement in the Mission of Mercy event that is held each year in Pittsburgh. Her dedication to making hearing health care accessible has led to the UPMC Audiology (Department of Otolaryngology) Interventional Audiology Program that extends hearing care throughout the health care system to improve patient/provider communication and support shared decision making.

Mission of Mercy event

Rachel Blake, second year AuD student, helps at the Mission of Mercy event in Pittsburgh.

Mission of Mercy event

Carrie Boss (Pitt CSD undergraduate alumni) working with Amanda Henigan (first year AuD student) representing one of Palmer's goals, which is for Mission of Mercy to become an alumni event and have alumni working with current students.

Palmer’s research and clinical programs led to the product development of LiDIA (Listening iDentification and Immediate Amplification) that supplies health care providers an easy, inexpensive, simple way to accurately identify individuals who are not hearing adequately in health care environments and allows for the immediate provision of amplification to support improved communication. She has received generous support from the university’s Innovation Institute to bring this product to life. Recently, she received the Wiegand Entrepreneurial Research Award that will allow deployment of LiDIA to numerous health care settings to complete validation of the technology.

“I have spent my career at Pitt, UPMC and in Southwestern PA because of the atmosphere that supports innovation and provides a supportive, generous atmosphere in which to innovate,” states Palmer. “I’m excited to move into a leadership role so I can be part of this support system that will allow our CSD Department to continue to flourish and ensure that we are inclusive in our success.” 


For media inquires please contact Natalie Baney, SHRS executive director of Marketing and Communications, and Elizabeth Reid, UPMC media representative.