Bopanna Ballachanda, PhD
BS: Audiology and Speech Pathology, University of Mysore, India, All India Institute of Speech and Hearing, 1973
MS: Audiology, University of Texas – Dallas, Callier Center for Communication Disorders, 1982
PhD: Auditory Neurosciences, University of Texas – Dallas, Callier Center for Communication Disorders, 1988
Why are you interested in serving on the Academy board?
My background, in academia, research, clinical services, combined with services to the American Academy of Audiology, allowed me to understand the inner workings of the Academy, and have prepared me to serve as the next leader of this organization. I am a strong leader, and I tirelessly strive for excellence in everything I have committed to do. I have seen the Academy grow from its infancy to the current status as the leader in audiology, not only in this country but around the world. I believe I would be a very effective president of the Academy. I am also a clinician, and I understand the needs of the largest segment of our membership and help support the issues of the clinicians. I am the only audiologist in the United States to open 16 clinics in three states. I was the CEO of this company and had the experience to manage a total of 60 staff including eighteen audiologists with a $6 million annual budget. My past experiences in research and teaching have helped me appreciate and support much-needed research in audiology and also in education of audiologists. Also, I was on the board of directors of the Academy a few years ago, and understand the delicate nature of leading the profession of audiology in turbulent waters, to achieve the aspirations and goals of our members; to be independent, financially secure, and respected by our peers. I am ready and well prepared to lead and achieve the goals defined by the leaders of our profession.
What challenges or key issues do you see for the Audiology profession in the next five years? What would you hope to accomplish about these challenges during your term on the board?
Let me list the challenges or the key issues that the profession of audiology will face in the next five years. I have identified five areas, and I will list them and address each of these challenges, and propose a pathway to accomplish the desired goals.
- Reimbursement for our professional services: At present several codes have been reviewed by AMA and CMS and compensation for the time spent has been reduced. Most of the codes that we use for our diagnostic procedures were set several years ago, and need revision. My desired goal is to receive compensation for the time spent on par with other professions. I will work with AMA, CMS, AAO-HNS and private payers to obtain better compensation.
- Hearing aid delivery models: Currently, audiologists use a delivery model that was introduced a long time ago, this model includes the service rendered and the hearing aid/accessories provided to the patient as one ticketed item. This model should be changed to separate the goods. My desired goal is to educate our members to separate goods and receive compensation for our professional services. This means building awareness of the current situation and pushing hard to change our service delivery model. Changes in our clinic practice will make up more competitive and any concept like OTC hearing aids become less threatening. I will have a town hall meeting with all the stakeholders to address concerns and mitigate fears in the changing land scape of hearing care.
- Shortage of audiologists and the burden to provide audiology services: The third critical problem we will face in the future is that we simply do not have enough audiologists to meet the growing needs of the population. Do we have the fortitude to look ahead at the demands that will come at us in the future, and we should plan better ways to provide hearing services? The desired goal is create alternate models like incorporating tele-audiology practice, use audiology assistants, and increase the number of students graduating from universities.
- Advocacy: This is an ongoing activity as new issues emerge in the coming years; my goal is to ensure that audiology is recognized as an autonomous and independent profession. As the president, I would continue to increase the current level of advocacy efforts to educate our legislators and others associated with audiology.
- The financial well-being of the American Academy of Audiology: It is of paramount importance that the Academy is financially solvent, healthy, and able to carry out many projects to support our members. My desired goal is to have a financially strong Academy--thus, to increase revenue opportunities by extending our services for a fee to emerging markets, and (2) to revisit our current and former exhibitors at AudiologyNOW! and address their concerns and build a larger/stronger exhibitor pool.
What experience do you have in the planning, evaluation, and implementation of a strategic plan?
The strategy has many definitions but involves setting goals, determining actions to achieve the goals and mobilizing resources to execute the actions. A strategy describes how the ends (goals) will be achieved by the means (resources). I have been in the field of audiology for the past several years as a student, researcher, faculty, clinician, volunteer in professional activities, and administrator/CEO of clinics.
During these years, I have had the opportunity to participate in various capacities to plan, evaluate, and implement strategic plans. As a researcher, I was involved in planning research, completing the projects, and finally submitting the findings to publication. As an educator, I mentored Ph.D. and Masters students in their dissertation and thesis work. I have written two books that require all the qualities and skills required for completing a strategic plan.
As a solo practitioner, I was responsible for the conduct of the clinic. As a CEO/owner of a large audiology practice, I was instrumental in its identifying, evaluating, and implementing changes to make these clinics productive and financially strong.
Also, during my tenure as a board of director member of the American Academy of Audiology, I participated in several critical decisions to plan, evaluate, and implement strategic plans.
List any experience in Financial Management. Describe your experience in developing and implementing a budget for practice, business, department, or organization?
This is an important and excellent question for the leader of a prestigious organization such as the American Academy of Audiology. I had mentioned that one of the key component for the president to implement during the time of the presidency is to strengthen the financial status of the Academy. I was the owner one of the largest audiology practices (owned by an audiologist) in this county. I was involved in reviewing and monitoring the financial status of the clinics as whole on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. The company had sixty employees at one point, requiring me to manage their salaries, benefits, and allocate merit-based raises on a constant basis. My past job as director of central operations for Audiology Management Group also requires that I have a budget to work on, and that I review the profit and loss sheet. I understand the budgetary process not only on a personal level from my own experiences, but also from a professional point of view as a board of director member of the American Academy of Audiology and Trustee of the American Academy of Audiology Foundation. In addition, I was the representative from AAAF to the Academy audit committee. Along with these experiences, I have reviewed the budget for New Mexico Speech-Language Hearing Association and other non-profit and religious organization (President of Hindu Temple Society of New Mexico).
Select five competencies you feel best represent your leadership strengths.
Accountability, Commitment, Decision Making, Leadership Skills, Organizational Knowledge
Based on the five competencies you selected that best represent your leadership strengths, comment on how these qualities would positively affect your ability to serve on the Academy board.
- Accountability: I recognize accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, decisions, and policies including the administration, governance, and the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences. I find myself engaged in the above activities on a daily basis. As the CEO, I was accountable for the final decisions and had to explain to my staff as it affected their livelihood. I take responsibilities seriously and work towards achieving my goals within a prescribed time frame.
- Commitment: I see commitment as key factor in the well-being of any organization. My past work is a testimonial to my commitment to personal and professional achievements. I have sought opportunities to commit myself to understanding and completing the process. I find it very rewarding to be committed to any work I have taken and achieve the desired goal.
- Decision making: Decision making is the process of identifying and choosing alternatives based on the values and preferences of the decision-maker. With maturity comes, understanding of the nature of the problem and deciding a course of action. I clearly understand that major part of decision-making involves the analysis of a finite set of alternatives described in terms of evaluative criteria. My task is to rank these alternatives in terms of how attractive they are to the decision-making when all the criteria are considered simultaneously. My second strategy is to find the best alternative or to determine the relative total priority of each alternative.
- Leadership skills: I find Proactivity, flexibility, respect, and solid communication are four traits of a great leadership. I have practiced personal qualities such as strong ethics, honesty, confidence, creativity, enthusiasm and personality as important qualities to inspires confidence in and draws good performance out of others. I am proactive and think several steps ahead of a given situation to seek all possible options. I try to take all possible steps to avoid a problem. This helps me to plan ahead rather than get caught in problems that could have been foreseen and prevented. I am a good listener and will listen for feedback from the board, from committees, and most importantly from the stake holders (members, industry, and related professions). I respect, collaborative endeavors.
- Organizational knowledge: It is important to understand the complexities that exist in any organization. A clear understanding of hierarchy is essential to delegate and accomplish collaborative work. I have spent many years associating myself in many activities of the Academy and find myself quite knowledgeable about the structure and workings of the Academy.
Collaboration, consensus building, and conflict resolution are three qualities associated with effective leadership. Reflect upon these characteristics and provide your perspective on how each of these traits would be of importance to you as the Academy president.
- Collaboration: Collaboration is working with others to do a task and to achieve shared goals. In the current political climate, we cannot work as a single entity to achieve the goals for our membership. I see several levels of cooperation that are required to effectively achieve any project(s) or goals. First of all, the board has to work in collaboration with the president’s objectives, and, in turn, the president has to acknowledge the directions of the board. The collaboration extends beyond the Academy level and into other organization (s).
- Consensus building: Consensus building is important in today's interconnected society because many problems exist that affect diverse groups of people with different interests. The process allows various stakeholders (parties with an interest in the problem or issue) to work together to develop a mutually acceptable solution. I have seen this: an important outcome of our consensus building is in achieving a seat in RUC and alternating representation with ASHA. I find consensus building is important but it is critical that the definition of success is made clear from the beginning of any consensus-building process. I also understand that it is acceptable for a consensus-building effort to settle for overwhelming agreement that gets as close as possible (not too far from my objectives) to meeting the interests of every stakeholder in our Academy.
- Conflict resolution: Dimensions of resolution typically parallel the dimensions of conflict in the way the conflict is processed. Cognitive resolution is the way disputants understand and view the conflict, with beliefs and perspectives and understandings and attitudes. I understand the significance in an organization such as the Academy. Conflicts can arise at any level, but it is important to understand that the resolutions can be initiated at all levels. The most important conflict resolution that needs to take place is between the Academy and other organizations. I have been involved in resolving conflicts for many years, both between students as a faculty member, and between employees as the CEO of an organization.