The aspect of active listening and understanding speech is not an easy skill to master. In a society full of noise and constant communication between humans and our personal devices, it’s people like Dr. Katie Pitts that stop, look, listen, and more importantly, study how people hear the world around them. Focusing on teaching students audiology and other communication-related courses, Dr. Pitts tries her hardest to get her students interested in treating, advocating and caring for those with hearing loss. Holding a great attachment to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, Dr. Pitts works diligently within the online Communication Sciences and Disorders program as a faculty member to prepare students for the challenges they will face as future audiologists and speech therapists. And while society has turned a corner in trying to understand and advocate for such communities, there is still a lot of work to do – and that’s where her heart for teaching really lies.
Growing Up In A Hearing World
Raised as a Navy brat, Dr. Pitts grew up in all sorts of places and spaces from Arizona, California, Washington and Texas. And while she didn’t mind the travel, Dr. Pitts mentions that she learned to live with it. She understood that life, as chaotic and noisy as it was sometimes, was meant to be lived and enjoyed, knowing that change was indeed inevitable. Even as a child, Dr. Pitts underwent drastic changes in her life due to her being born with a cleft lip, cleft palate, and hearing loss. At a young age, Dr. Pitts went through countless surgeries, skin grafts, and therapies in order to have the ability to speak, chew, and hear normally – something that really formulated her love for those born with speech and hearing disabilities.
“Going through all those things really changed me,” Dr. Pitts said. “I spent several years going to countless doctors appointments and therapists, which ultimately led me to my passion which was healthcare. I really saw myself as someone who has undergone serious health-related issues and now made it out to see the other end.”
As a high school student, Dr. Pitts remembers considering being a pediatrician. She loved the ones that assisted her during her surgeries and recovery and she instantly thought she “could do it, too.” But, after a while, Dr. Pitts realized that while medicine helped her get to where she was today, she would much rather work with patients in a one-on-one clinical setting. Hence, she landed on speech pathology. Graduating from Texas Christian University with her bachelor’s in speech-language pathology, Dr. Pitts was thrilled to finally accomplish what she set out to be all those years ago.
“I just remember thinking how fortunate and excited I was to get started in that field,” Dr. Pitts remarked. “I didn’t know what to expect as far as my next step, but I was excited to get going.”
And while she recognizes the sacrifices her parents and family made, she is eternally grateful for the people that helped her as a young girl who needed assistance. Had it not been for them, she doesn’t know how her life would have turned out.
Becoming An Audiologist
Shortly after graduating college, Dr. Pitts began working as a speech-language pathologist assistant under the direction of Alicia Ramirez, now an assistant professor and current program director of the undergraduate Communication Sciences and Disorders program at ACU Online; a pure coincidence at the time. Over the next five years, Dr. Pitts would assist Alicia in cases involving children and adolescents with various speech impediments and disorders. Learning the ins and outs of what it means to be a clinical speech pathologist, Dr. Pitts soon realized she wanted to become more than just an assistant but rather a clinician herself.
Obtaining her doctorate degree in Audiology from the University of North Texas, Dr. Pitts received the training and knowledge needed to accurately diagnose, treat, and lead patients toward a brighter and more resounding future. Unlike speech pathology, audiology, in Dr. Pitts’ words, “deals more with the science behind how we manage, and treat hearing, balance, or common ear problems.” Looking to become an expert in this field, Dr. Pitts continued pursuing her professional career by becoming a full-time audiologist before deciding to pursue teaching as well.
“I just remember looking back and thinking how much I loved the clinical side of things but [I] also wanted to give back and help students learn more about this exciting field,” Dr. Pitts stated. “Plus, since I knew what it was like to have hearing aids, it made me more approachable to my patients. And what’s better than that?”
Shortly after, Dr. Pitts received a call from Alicia and soon began teaching classes like Introduction to Audiology and Phonetics; courses that she considers quite difficult for those who have never experienced hearing loss or who have never worked with patients with disabilities. And while it might cost them a little bit more to learn the material, Dr. Pitts is always thrilled to see how excited her students get about learning the next section. In many cases, her students go on to pursue audiology as their own careers – something that warms her heart every single time.
Now, having two children and a devoted husband, Dr. Pitts is eager to see what else might be in store for her at ACU and beyond. From balancing remote working, and managing her household, to working with patients within her ENT clinic, Dr. Pitts is content. For her, all the hard work of school and childhood paid off in the end. Amidst the struggles and surgeries that she never wishes on anyone else, Dr. Pitts looks back on her life with joy and celebration.
“I really think I’m in the right field based on my passion for people,” Dr. Pitts said. “I encourage anyone to go with their gut feeling and pursue what they want even if it seems impossible. I did and looked where it led me.”
Are you interested in taking classes from professors like Dr. Pitts? Learn more about our Communication Sciences and Disorders program today! Or, call our admissions team at 855-219-7300 to begin your journey at ACU Online.