Genelle Cook didn’t grow up wanting to be an audiologist but it’s likely that’s how she will be remembered given her contribution to audiology for over 40 years.
Genelle has contributed significantly to paediatric diagnostic audiology in a distinguished career and is highly respected amongst her peers.
Recognised in the 2020 Australia Day Honours, Genelle was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
She received an overwhelming response to the achievement.
“I am humbled by the recognition. It’s amazing” she said. “People write amazing things. I received an email from an RIDBC volunteer before 7am on the day the names were published,” Genelle said.
Genelle’s OAM achievement follows on from a Certificate of Outstanding Service from Audiology Australia (2016) recognising her work.
A rewarding journey in audiology
Genelle’s audiological journey started when she saw a job advertised in the paper. And the rest is history.
“Audiology has given me a career I never would have imagined,” she said.
“Being able to see the progress of children who have received therapy and hearing solutions is extremely rewarding.”
Genelle humbly deflects praise to her colleagues, saying that she constantly works with ‘amazing people’ committed to the children they support.
“It’s the people you meet. The families. The teachers. The teachers of the deaf. The doctors. The audiologists. The therapists. The surgeons,” Genelle said.
Genelle has seen many changes over her audiology career, most notably the rise of technology leading to developments such as the cochlear implant; and the rise in newborn screening leading to early diagnoses and better outcomes.
“I am fortunate to have been there before and after these advancements in audiology,” she said.
Within the audiology sector, Genelle identifies the NDIS as a game changer. “Although the NDIS has changed the way the disability system operates it shouldn’t change the way we care for people with a disability, including hearing loss” she said.
Manager of the RIDBC Jim Patrick Audiology Centre, Genelle witnessed many of these changes firsthand during her 16-year RIDBC career, starting in 2004.
“RIDBC has provided me with opportunities and a foundation to improve professionally. I am thankful for that,” she said “But it is not over yet, there is more to do”.
Leading the way
Genelle was a pioneer working in Samoa and has participated in several outreach programs locally for indigenous communities.
Speaking about her work in Samoa, Genelle said “It is a team effort – a team of volunteers with varied backgrounds in audiology working together to do the best we can with what we have”. It is a journey she has made 35 times, give or take.
“We have worked with a local registrar who is soon to become an ENT [surgeon]” she said. Genelle explains identifying children with hearing loss is one thing but ensuring they receive the therapy they need is another.
When asked about the importance of early intervention in Samoa Genelle alludes to the relationship between education and speech and language. “Finding the children, fitting them with hearing aids ensured they were able to go to school, assisting with their development” she said.
“It has been a privilege to go to Samoa and it shows how lucky we are to live in Australia” she said.
Recently Genelle played an instrumental role that will see RIDBC working with Northern Territory Health to enable audiologists to visit Tennant Creek in an outreach capacity, for the first time, later this year.
The story is still being written
Genelle appreciates the number of people that have reached out to congratulate her. Although happy to accept these comments, she is quick to say that this isn’t the end of her story and there is more work to do.
So, as you read this the chances are Genelle is in the office getting on with the job.