Presidential Medal of Honor 2024: Rita Chaiken, AuD ‘03
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Presidential Medal of Honor 2024: Rita Chaiken, AuD ‘03

Salus group at conference

Rita Chaiken, AuD 03, was in her car with a colleague on the way to the recently held American Academy of Audiology (AAA) Annual Conference when she received a call from Jacqueline Patterson, MPA, CFRE, vice president of Institutional Advancement at Salus University.

Although Dr. Chaiken had helped nominate another colleague for the University’s 2024 Presidential Medal of Honor, that’s not what Patterson was calling about.

Rita Chaiken Headshot“She told me I had been nominated for a Presidential Medal as well, and I was really touched,” said Dr. Chaiken. “Then she told me that not only was I nominated, but that I was actually getting the award! I was really surprised, really taken aback, and very honored.”

Dr. Chaiken and four other medal winners will be honored at the annual recognition reception at 12:30 p.m., Sunday, June 2, at PineCrest Country Club in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Chaiken has been involved with the University’s Osborne College of Audiology (OCA) virtually since its establishment in 2000. She was asked by the College’s founder, George S. Osborne, to teach the second-ever cohort of the program in 2001.

“George had seen me lecturing at an Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) meeting in California and called a few days later and asked me to teach in the program which I’ve done ever since,” said Dr. Chaiken.

She eventually became a student in the program, graduating in 2003 from the bridge program, and has stayed involved with the program ever since, teaching first in the distance learning program and then in the residential program. She has also served on the OCA advisory board as well as the University’s Alumni Association board. For her dedication and support, she was honored with the Alumni Association’s Audiology Alumna of the Year in 2016.

A native of Miami, Dr. Chaiken earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology from Syracuse University in 1973. She received a Master of Medical Science degree in both Clinical Audiology and Education of the Hearing Impaired from Emory University two years later. She then completed her clinical fellowship with Fulton County Schools in Atlanta, where she became the first audiologist in the school district.

Rita Chaiken and Dr. RadAs the first audiologist for Fulton County Georgia’s public-school system, Dr. Chaiken established two audiology clinics that educated administrators, teachers and parents about the importance of pediatric hearing screenings.

After six years in educational audiology, she accepted a position as a regional manager for a major manufacturer of hearing aids, where she learned and taught others about hearing, hearing aid dispensing, and the business of audiology. Constant travel eventually led her to open her own private practice. During this period, she attended an interactive cerumen management workshop at an Academy of Dispensing Audiologists (now the Academy of Doctors of Audiology - ADA) annual meeting, leading her to yet another path within the audiology profession — teaching.

Drawn to cerumen management — the cleaning of a patient’s ears — Dr. Chaiken became a member of the Cerumen Management Team of the ADA in 1994 and became the program’s coordinator four years later.

“Everybody has to have a passion and mine is ear wax,” said Dr. Chaiken. “My years in the Salus program really enabled me to fine-tune the training and made it very popular with audiologists around the country. I hope I represent Salus well when I teach.”

Rita Chaiken and Dr. MittelmanCurrently, Dr. Chaiken travels all over North America delivering interactive cerumen management workshops to audiologists in Veterans’ facilities, universities, national/state organizations, and private practices as well as university doctoral candidate programs. For this, she was recognized by the Audiology Foundation of America (AFA). 

Over the years, the Salus audiology program has continued to mean a great deal to Dr. Chaiken.

“It has had a great impact on my career,” she said. “What’s special about OCA and Salus is how unique the audiology program is, which is what has made me want to support it in so many ways.”

Dr. Chaiken, who still lives in Atlanta, describes herself as “pretty retired” now. While she doesn’t see patients anymore, she continues to teach in the University’s Audiology program and other university programs, holds workshops, and advocates on behalf of the audiology profession. Her husband is “not quite retired but that’s going to happen soon,” and they enjoy spending time with their children and grandchildren who also live in the area.

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