NIDCD Program Director Travels to Jordan
The NIDCD’s Dr. Lana Shekim (right) and Dr. Ben Prickril
(with the National Cancer Institute), who travelled with
the Embassy Science Fellowship Program.
Photo: Mark Miller
According to the First World Report on Disability released in 2011 by the World Health Organization, roughly one billion people in the world— close to 15 percent of us—live with a disability that makes access to health care, education, employment, transportation, information, and many other essential aspects of life extremely difficult. Communication disorders such as hearing loss and voice, speech, and language disorders likely represent a large portion of that number. Hearing loss alone affects roughly 278 million people worldwide.
These kinds of jaw-dropping statistics nudged Lana Shekim, Ph.D., program director of the voice and speech program at the NIDCD, to apply to the Embassy Science Fellowship Program to see if she could make a difference. The Embassy Science Fellowship is a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and open to scientists at federal agencies.
Dr. Shekim, who is multilingual and a fluent speaker of Arabic, spent two months this spring and early summer in Amman, Jordan, as a fellow of the U.S. Embassy. She was involved in assessing the services available for the care of Jordanians with communication disorders and also exploring opportunities for collaboration between the United States and Jordan to help people with communication disorders.
Working with academicians, clinicians, health advocates, and other national and international non-governmental organizations, Dr. Shekim identified resources and programs that could help Jordan achieve the WHO’s 2011 recommendations to better meet the needs of people with communication disabilities. These goals include adopting a national disability strategy and plan of action and strengthening and supporting research on disability.
Dr. Shekim also represents the NIDCD on the Fogarty International Center’s International Representatives Committee and the Global Health Research Working Group. “It’s important that we think about communication disorders as a global health issue,” says Dr. Shekim.