American Hearing Research Foundation Names Donna Whitlon, PhD, as Research Committee Chair
Elmhurst, Illinois – August 29, 2019
The American Hearing Research Foundation is pleased to announce that in May 2019, Donna Whitlon, PhD, assumed leadership of AHRF’s Research Committee. The Committee counsels the AHRF board in the selection of research projects to fund each year. Whitlon was welcomed as a Director of the AHRF Board at this time as well.
Whitlon brings a depth of experience to the role of Committee Chair. Initially trained in biochemistry, she has over 35 years as an auditory scientist. In addition to reviewing National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants, she served as a reviewer for the AHRF Research Committee for about 11 years in the past. She notes, “I have always appreciated the idea of this Foundation, its enthusiasm and its focus on stimulating new ideas and helping to get them off the ground. So I am looking forward to joining you all again.”
Whitlon also has been on the recipient side, receiving grant awards from AHRF in 2007 and 2009. “The AHRF grants made a huge difference in the work I was able to pursue. So I know what that boost can mean to others.”
Since 1997, Whitlon has been faculty at Northwestern University, and is presently Research Professor of Otolarygology – Head and Neck Surgery at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
When asked about her research interests, Whitlon explains, “The anatomy of the cochlea, particularly the wiring of the local spiral ganglion neurons, captured my imagination over 35 years ago. I spent the early part of my career studying the anatomy, p r o t e i n expression, and development of the spiral ganglion nerve fibers. Now, in a clinical department, I am interested in a critical clinical question: How can we help to protect against or repair hearing loss?” She and her team developed an in vitro screening approach that allowed them to narrow down a library of chemical compounds to a few of the most promising. They are exploring these compounds in-depth, to determine their impact in animal models of noise induced hearing loss.
Whitlon’s work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, American Hearing Research Foundation, Knowles Leadership Fund, the Office of Naval Research and the Department of Otolaryngology, Northwestern University.
20 Years at the Helm
Stepping down from the role of Chair is Alan G. Micco, MD, surgeon-educator and leading expert in otolaryngology and neurotology at Northwestern University. Micco has guided AHRF grant evaluation for 20 years. He will continue to share his expertise as President of the Board, and as a reviewing member of the Committee.
Colleague David Klodd, PhD, notes, “Dr. Micco’s superb organizational and communication skills have enabled the Research Committee to effectively deliberate in its annual meetings with noteworthy outcomes. On behalf of the Board, Committee, and grant recipients, we thank you for your service and dedication.”
AHRF is a nonprofit organization that has been making new discoveries possible for more than 60 years by funding novel research to better understand and overcome hearing and balance disorders of the inner ear. Since 2010, the organization has funded 86 projects with nearly $2 million in research grants.