2022 Tillman Scholar

Erin Catob

University of Maryland
Doctorate of Clinical Audiology

“Hearing loss, like PTSD, is invisible and negatively impacts one’s quality of life. We can improve these outcomes for veterans with hearing loss through education, teamwork, and hearing conservation.”

Military service has deep generational roots in Erin’s family, and she always dreamed of serving with the goal of supporting the warfighter. She was fortunate to serve eight dynamic years as a medical service officer, but now her ambitions have a new focus: to progress the research and development of adequate hearing protection for soldiers and to ensure veterans receive appropriate hearing healthcare through evidence-based practice. She is currently pursuing her Doctor of Clinical Audiology at the University of Maryland – College Park, with an emphasis in cochlear implants, and with the goal of bringing hearing conservation awareness and access to quality hearing assistive technology to our veterans and their families.

The inception of this dream started at the University of Florida where she commissioned as a medical service officer in 2011. She quickly gained operational medical planning and logistics skills throughout her training and subsequently served at various echelons within multiple Brigade Combat Teams, gaining valuable leadership and technical skills.

As a medical service officer in Afghanistan, Erin was responsible for coordinating medical support operations for thousands of soldiers and civilians at eight bases throughout their combat zone. She worked with her leaders to establish a Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) process for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) with which her unit worked closely, collaborating with the ANSF leaders to ensure the local military structure could support implementing the plan. Ultimately, these efforts produced the first Afghan Air Force MEDEVAC completed in Wardak and Logar Provinces without the aid of U.S. forces.

Erin always had a passion for hearing conservation, but her military service provided her with more focus. She witnessed combat-effected hearing loss through her experiences in Afghanistan and warfighters suffering from irreparable hearing damage. She noticed two major factors that required attention: the declining operational readiness of combat units whose warfighters were pulled from the front lines due to hearing loss, and the declining quality of life these warfighters experienced after returning home. Erin is determined to impact both.