When Giri Sundar, MPHil, PhD, CCC-A, FAAA, received an email inquiring if she had time for a 15-minute conversation with Salus University president Michael H. Mittelman, OD ‘80, MPH, MBA, FAAO, FACHE, she responded quickly in the affirmative.

But it wasn’t without a tinge of trepidation. When the top person requests an audience, the brain can react in a number of ways.

“My internal reaction was a combination of uncomfortable curiosity and eagerness to hear what it was about,” said Dr. Sundar. “But within the first few seconds, I assured myself that firing me from my job would not rise to the presidential level.”

Girija SundarAs it turned out, it was good news. Dr. Mittelman was informing Dr. Sundar she had been selected as a 2021 Presidential Medal of Honor awardee.

“I am honored and humbled to have been chosen for the award,” she said. “It is both a recognition of my efforts and an endorsement of the programs I have been working on for the past 12 years.”

The Presidential Medal of Honor is bestowed upon those who have made significant contributions to their profession and for their service to Salus.

After joining the University in 2010, Dr. Sundar has served as director of the Distance Education Programs and assistant professor in the University’s Osborne College of Audiology (OCA) since 2012. Her duties include developing and managing all aspects of the program, including identify emerging trends in research and clinical practices and integrate these into the curriculum for Advanced Studies Certificate programs; working with faculty to integrate developing trends and clinical practices into the doctoral curriculum; developing new distance education initiatives and maintaining the existing programs for domestic and international audiologists; and managing and running the existing Distance Education Programs within OCA.

In his letter recommending Dr. Sundar for the Presidential Medal, Robert V. Harrison, professor in the Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Toronto, senior scientist of Neuroscience and Mental Health for The Hospital of Sick Children in Toronto, and adjunct OCA professor, wrote that he wonders what Salus would do without her.

“She has organized and run, par excellence, the audiology online teaching. That has required some very special skills because she has chosen, contacted and persuaded the best professors (outside of Salus) to contribute to the online teaching. Giri is well known and well regarded in the audiology community, and thus could achieve this,” wrote Dr. Harrison.

He added that teaching audiology, as with any other healthcare professional area, requires constant updating, constant review of new science and evidence to guide clinical judgments, which is essential in any teaching program.

“There is no doubt that the Salus distance learning in Audiology is well regarded worldwide,” said Dr. Harrison.

Dr. Sundar has an undergraduate degree in Social Sciences from Queen Mary’s College in Chennai, India; a master of science in Communications Disorders/Audiology and a bachelor of science in Pathology from William Patterson College in Wayne, New Jersey; and a doctor of Philosophy and master of Philosophy in Hearing Sciences from City University of New York.

She said the type of work she does now at Salus is about process. “The fact that the University has acknowledged and applauds this process is both inspiring and challenging at the same time,” she said. “Now, I have to find ways to live up to the spirit of this award.”