“That’s the class.”

It was those three words from George S. Osborne, PhD, DDS — founding dean of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) School of Audiology — that not only changed the career path and life of Robert DiSogra, AuD ‘02, but also scores of his namesake, Osborne College of Audiology (OCA) students along the way.

Robert DiSograAnd, after 45 years of service to children and adults with hearing loss, it’s time for Dr. DiSogra, the first OCA advisory board chairman who planned and taught the pharmacology/ototoxicity course for the first five years after the AuD program was initially inaugurated in 2000, to retire and reflect on his career.

“Everybody had a cookie-cutter (audiology) program at that point. George tailored the PCO classes based on your work environment and where you saw yourself five years from now,” said Dr. DiSogra. “And, I thought that was spectacular the way he had the insight and the foresight to ask what was going to make you better over the next five years of your career. That’s exactly what he did.”

Already 25 years into his career, Drs. DiSogra and Osborne had met in the early 1990s, when Dr. DiSogra was president of the New Jersey Academy of Audiology when it formed in 1992. Dr. Osborne was part of the soon-to-be Pennsylvania Academy of Audiology and was seeking advice from Dr. DiSogra on how to get the Pennsylvania Academy started.

“During the course of the preparation for this (academy), I knew the value that the AuD degree had for my practice. I got in touch with George just to see what was going on at PCO,” said Dr. DiSogra. "We had a wonderful conversation. I had asked him what courses would be taught at PCO and he started going through these courses that they were going to offer and who was going to teach them. I was very impressed.”

PCO was planning to offer a course in pharmacology and ototoxicity. Dr. DiSogra asked who was going to be teaching that class and dropped some names of people in the profession who were well known in pharmacology and ototoxicity. But Dr. Osborne had read “The Side Effects of Drugs on Hearing, Listening and Other Systems” that Dr. DiSogra had published in an audiology journal a few years earlier. “Why don’t you teach the pharmacology class?” Dr. Osborne said to Dr. DiSogra.

Robert DiSogra“I said George, I’d be only one page ahead of the class,” said Dr. DiSogra. “He said, ‘Bob, look at it this way. If you were to go back to school and a take a six-week class in pharmacology, what would you want to learn as a practicing audiologist with 25 years already under your belt?’”

Dr. DiSogra provided a rundown of what he thought he would want to learn that would help him in his private practice. “He said three words to me: ‘That’s the class.’ And, that’s how the pharmacology class got started,” he said.

“The Side Effects of Drugs on Hearing, Listening and Other Systems” would be the basis for the course, and Dr. DiSogra would update it before using it in his teaching. Initially, there were 75 side effects and about 150 drugs involved. By the time he updated the list, Dr. DiSogra found it had grown to 315 side effects and about 2,000 drugs.

He submitted the updated list to the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) and it published a reference book for audiologists that came out in 2001 based on the updated information. That positioned Dr. DiSogra as an expert in the field of drug side effects on hearing and balance.

“So, I was taking classes as an AuD student on Wednesdays but on Tuesdays I was teaching the pharmacology class. George just knew where audiologists were coming from,” said Dr. DiSogra. “He knew our train of thought, that people had different learning styles that changed over the years. No fluff, cut to the chase. And, that attracted a lot of people and a lot of those grads have made remarkable contributions to the field over the years and have advanced themselves within the profession.”

Robert DiSograDr. DiSogra — who was Salus University Alumni Association’s Alumnus of the Year in 2013 and has kept in touch with the OCA audiology program over the years in an advisory capacity — was in private practice until 2015 and then stepped away from active patient responsibilities soon thereafter. Since 2016, he’s been involved in teaching and lecturing to state audiology associations in the United States and other associations abroad. By the time April 2022 rolls around, he will have completed those commitments and will be fully retired.

Dr. DiSogra had a health scare last year when he was diagnosed with leukemia in September 2021. But after treatment, he said he is now in remission. He and his wife Suzanne, a retired speech-language pathologist, currently reside in Millstone, New Jersey, but have no big plans at this point other than to visit their new grandson in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“I think I made my mark with my profession and my students and I have tried to stay on top of things that were clinically relevant to my colleagues,” he said. “But I’ve always been, and always will be, grateful to George Osborne for the opportunity that he gave me. I owe a lot to him and plan to help keep his legacy alive.”