Since the age of 10, Luz Figueroa, MSc ‘22, had studied music at the Antonio Neumane Conservatory in Guayaquil, the capital city of Guayas Province in her native Ecuador. When she finished high school and it was time to decide on a career, Figueroa wanted to pursue a healthcare profession that allowed her time to play the piano; and to be able to work while pursuing her higher education degree because her family didn’t have the funds at the time to send her to a private institution.
 
Luz Figueroa standing near PEI displayBefore enrolling at Guayaquil University, a public university, Figueroa met with medical technology school staff members and was introduced to something called “phono-audiology,” which in Ecuador is what a speech-language pathologist is called.
 
“I googled what a phono-audiologist does and found a correlation between that and music,” said Figueroa, who would go on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in speech therapy from Guayaquil University.
 
And, that set her on the path to becoming an audiologist which eventually would lead her to the Salus University Osborne College of Audiology (OCA) where she would become the first and only MSc in Clinical Audiology graduate to date from Ecuador.
 
Just six months after completing her undergraduate degree, Figueroa began her journey to become an audiologist. For 14 months between 2013 and 2014, she pursued an audiology degree in Colombia. In addition to studying virtually, she had to travel to Bogotá once a month for in-person classes, all while working at a hospital and a private clinic in Ecuador to pay for her studies. She has been working in a public hospital for eight years where she acquired clinical audiology experience.
 
She earned that degree in 2014 and for the next two years, worked as a teacher in phono-audiology at Guayaquil University. She was offered a scholarship for academic excellence by the Ecuadorian government but couldn’t accept it because her first choice for graduate school, Salus University, was not then an audiology recognized degree in Ecuador. “But I knew that I needed to learn more about audiology to become an excellent professional for assisting patients,” said Figueroa.
 
Luz Figueroa headshotShe turned to the Salus website to see what she needed to do. That’s where she learned that OCA offered the MSc degree in Clinical Audiology. She was able to enroll in the hybrid program — which included online lectures and workshops — for international students.
 
“My classmates were so nice and professional, I had a great experience when we had the hands-on workshops, as we were sharing ideas with each other,” said Figueroa. “It’s incredible how technology gets people around the world to enjoy and learn about audiology.”
 
Now she’s making her mark in her native Ecuador. She works in a private clinic with many ears, nose and throat (ENT) specialists and can practice in many areas of audiology, including pediatric audiology, vestibular, clinical audiology, hearing conservation and preservation and electrophysiology assessment.
 
And, since graduating from the Salus master’s of audiology program in the spring of 2022, she has already opened her own private audiology office in the Guayaquil and Santa Elena province in Ecuador. In addition, Figueroa works one day a week for a foundation conducting audiology assessments and seeing patients from neighboring cities. She is a frequent speaker at Ecuadorian congressional and academic events and has been elected the first president of what will become the Ecuador Audiology Association.
 
She hopes to pursue her PhD in audiology, write a book about audiology and start a foundation to guide parents, professionals and community members to help hearing impaired pediatric patients.
 
Luz Figueroa and Dr. Mittelman holding Ecuador flagAccording to Figueroa, the Salus OCA program provided a critical foundation on which to advance her career and pursue her goals.  
 
“My experience at Salus was awesome,” she said. "I met wonderful professionals and besides learning about audiology, I got to know the fantastic person behind the professional.”
 
Figueroa specifically cited Salus OCA faculty member Giri Sundar, MPhil, PhD, CCC-A, FAAA, assistant professor and director of the Distance Education programs at OCA; Lori Hume, administrative assistant in the Distance Education programs; and James Hall, III, BS, MA, PhD, professor of audiology in the Residential and Distance Education programs.
 
“Dr. Hall was the first American audiologist that I heard lecture in 2013 when I was studying in Colombia,” said Figueroa, who first met Dr. Hall in 2018. “Meeting him was like meeting a rock star.”
 
She also enjoys traveling for continuing education workshops and meetings to expand her knowledge even more.  
 
“Continuing audiology education is key for the best clinical practice,” she said. “I feel so blessed to have had this wonderful experience at Salus. I’d like to show gratitude to God, my family, friends, colleagues and teachers who supported me to achieve this goal.”