The 2019 Oticon Focus on People Awards honored 13 “remarkable individuals whose courage and commitment are helping to change the perception of what it means to have a hearing loss,” the company announced. At a special awards ceremony held at the Oticon, Inc, US headquarters, more than 100 hearing care professionals and Oticon staff celebrated this year’s finalists in the Student, Advocacy, Adult, and Practitioner categories. Nearly 15,000 votes were cast by people from across the US to help determine the 2019 first-, second-, and third-place winners.
The national awards program, now in its 21st year, has brought recognition to more than 280 extraordinary people who demonstrate that hearing loss does not limit a person’s ability to live a full, productive, and even inspiring life. This year’s honorees include a middle school teacher and coach who uses his personal experience of hearing loss to promote diversity among students and a teenage girl who has made it easier for police officers in her hometown to communicate with hearing-impaired citizens. An outstanding achievement award was presented to 2001 Student category winner Amanda Mooneyham, MD, now a primary-care physician, who showed event guests that Focus on People Award winners continue to contribute and inspire.

“The 2019 Oticon Focus on People Award winners have each found a unique way to make the world a better place—for others with hearing loss and for all of us,” said Nancy Palmere, director of consumer marketing and public relations for Oticon, Inc and awards program leader for more than 20 years.  “This national program allows us to recognize their achievements and create awareness that is helping to change attitudes and open doors of opportunity for all people with hearing loss.


From left to right: Anthony Reisdorff; Catherine Fitzgerald; Gary Rosenblum; Emma Faye Rudkin; Jennifer Lightfoot; Hank, Rudkin’s service dog.

The 2019 First Place Winners are:

STUDENT – Catherine Fitzgerald, Mansfield, Mass

Catherine combined her experience of profound hearing loss and passion for criminal justice to help police in her hometown bridge the communication gap with hearing-impaired people in the community. Then a determined high school senior, now a freshman at Curry College, she developed and conducted American Sign Language training sessions for Mansfield Police Department officers and civilian employees.

ADULT – Anthony Reisdorff, Papillion, Neb

As a person with hearing loss and the father of a young son born with a genetic disorder that impacts speech, communication, and learning, Tony is passionate about creating a world that accepts and respects people of all abilities. In classes throughout the school year, this middle school teacher and coach uses his hearing aids as a compelling and very personal talking point to promote inclusion among his students.

ADVOCACY – Emma Faye Rudkin, Boerne, Texas

Emma Faye has dedicated her life to helping people with hearing loss through the nonprofit organization, Aid the Silent, a program she founded while still a teenager. Today, the program helps economically disadvantaged deaf and hard-of-hearing children and teens reach their full potential and live more richly through funding for needed hearing aids and resources.

PRACTITIONER – Jennifer Lightfoot, AuD, Alexandria, Virginia

Jennifer, whose hearing loss was not diagnosed until age 5, knows the importance of early hearing intervention. That helps explain the special place in her heart for the young students with hearing loss, ranging from infants to 8th graders, for whom she cares at Kendall Elementary School on the campus of Gallaudet University. In addition, this dedicated practitioner has traveled to Guatemala to assist in the fitting of hearing aids for hundreds of disadvantaged children.

In addition to a $1,000 prize, first-place winners received a $1,000 donation from Oticon, Inc to give to the nonprofit organization of their choice. First place winners in the Adult, Student, and Advocacy categories also received a pair of advanced technology Oticon hearing instruments.


Amanda Mooneyham, MD, Redding, Calif

Amanda is living proof that Focus on People Award winners continue to make a positive difference. The 2001 Student category winner attended UC Davis School of Medicine, where she earned both her MD and MPH degrees. As a primary care physician at Shasta Community Health Center, Amanda serves as a role model to all, delivering expert care to children and adults with the help of hearing aids, lip-reading, and an electronic stethoscope with headphones.

From left to right: Anthony Reisdorff; Catherine Fitzgerald; Gary Rosenblum; Emma Faye Rudkin; Jennifer Lightfoot.

From left to right: Anthony Reisdorff; Catherine Fitzgerald; Gary Rosenblum; Emma Faye Rudkin; Jennifer Lightfoot.

There are eight Second and Third Place Winners in the program’s four categories:


2nd Place – Eryk Mejia, Marana, Arizona

3rd Place – Daniel Carey, Virginia Beach, Virginia


2nd Place – Allison Adams, Fuquay Varina, NC

3rd Place – William Dunckelman, Houma, Louisiana


2nd Place – Kerry Cerra, Coral Springs, Fla

3rd Place – Max Chartrand, PhD, Casa Grande, Arizona             


2nd Place – Stephanie Long, AuD, Appleton, Wis

3rd Place – Evonne Long, AuD, Jacksonville, Fla

To read the stories of all 13 of the 2019 Oticon Focus on People Awards winners, visit:

Source: Oticon

Images: Oticon