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Arnold School of Public Health

Dianne Dixon receives Kleffner Clinical Career Award for outstanding contributions to clinical science and practice

March 23, 2015 | Erin Bluvas, 

Dianne Dixon is a clinical instructor in the Arnold School’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (COMD), and she has also been instrumental to COMD’s External Clinical Practicum Program for nearly a decade. But before that, she spent 27 years working in public schools across the state with children as a speech-language pathologist, teacher of the deaf and Certified Auditory Verbal Therapist—all the while serving as an adjunct instructor for both Columbia College and USC. Dixon also has certificates demonstrating her specialization in clinical competence, teaching excellence and Masters level expertise in providing assistance with speech and hearing disorders.

So when Dixon was selected to receive the Frank R. Kleffner Clinical Career Award from the South Carolina Speech and Hearing Association (SCSHA), it surprised no one—except maybe Dixon. “It has been a humbling and surreal experience for me,” she says. “There has been such an outpouring of good wishes and congratulations, that I am, frankly, both gratified and overwhelmed.”

This prestigious honor recognizes the recipient for outstanding contributions to clinical science and practice in communication science disorders over a twenty year period—or longer, in Dixon’s case. Her interest in the field started even further back when she was a teenager volunteering at a VA Hospital. Through helping a soldier reclaim his speech after experiencing a stroke in Vietnam, Dixon says, “I quickly knew I wanted to be able to help people who had lost the ability to communicate, to regain that skill.”

Her interest in working with children stemmed from watching a young neighbor struggle to communicate with his family, because he was born deaf and did not have local access to adequate interventions. Several years later, after completing her bachelors’ (Columbia College) and masters’ (USC) degrees, Dixon met her first students, kick starting a lifelong passion for teaching both children as well as graduate students on the art of teaching those children. “I think, perhaps, some of us are born to teach, and I may well be one of those,” Dixon says. “In order to be an effective teacher, one must place a premium on knowledge and be willing to incessantly seek knowledge from all possible sources.”

She enjoys the more tangible outcomes as well. “I get a rush of adrenaline every time a deaf child hears his mother’s voice for the first time, a previously non-verbal child speaks or a non-reader reads her first words,” Dixon explains. “I also experience a little thrill each time a COMD student finds a new passion in an area that ignites passion in me, or when a student I taught long ago accepts a current student to train in the field.”

Dixon believes teaching and clinical service are not just components to a successful career, but rather, an opportunity to keep giving through those she has influenced long after she has passed the torch to the next generation. In fact, the hundreds of students Dixon has taught over the years have already shattered the barriers and misconceptions about the achievement and potential of individuals with hearing impairment.

It’s this outlook and inspirational drive that led Dixon’s COMD colleague, Juliana Miller, to nominate her for the award. “Dianne displays a selfless determination to make a difference in the lives of every student she educates, every clinician she mentors and every organization she joins,” Miller says. “Her passion for the profession and sense of profound responsibility in training the next generation of excellent clinicians is evident to all.”


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