skip navigation nih record
Vol. LX, No. 20
October 3, 2008

previous story

next story

Nobel Laureate Axel, Author Woodruff To Speak at NIDCD’s 20th Anniversary

On the front page...

Both the scientific and human sides of communication and communication disorders will be brought to the fore when a slate of stellar researchers and author and freelance writer Lee Woodruff appear at NIDCD’s 20th Anniversary Symposium on Thursday, Oct. 23, in the auditorium of the Natcher Conference Center.

The symposium, which runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., will highlight important accomplishments of NIDCD-funded research over the past two decades as well as the perspectives and talents of people who have a personal connection with a communication disorder. Roughly one in six people in this country will experience a communication disorder in his or her life.


  Author Lee Woodruff is one of the featured speakers at NIDCD’s 20th anniversary symposium.  
  Author Lee Woodruff is one of the featured speakers at NIDCD’s 20th anniversary symposium.  

In her presentation “In an Instant,” Woodruff will share her family’s story about the life-altering changes they experienced when her husband, ABC news anchor and reporter Bob Woodruff, suffered a traumatic brain injury after his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in Iraq. (The Woodruffs co-authored the New York Times bestselling book of the same title.) Mr. Woodruff’s injury impacted the language part of his brain causing aphasia, a disorder that affects a person’s ability to express and understand language. In addition, Ms. Woodruff will discuss her experience when she and her husband discovered that their 5-month-old daughter— one of twins—was hearing-impaired.

The symposium will include three scientific sessions representing NIDCD’s primary areas of research: hearing and balance; smell and taste; and voice, speech and language. An opening session titled “As Time Goes By: A Population Perspective on Hearing in Aging,” will be delivered by epidemiologist Dr. Karen J. Cruickshanks, an NIDCD advisory council member and a professor in the departments of ophthalmology and visual sciences and population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin.

Presenters for the hearing and balance section include:

• Dr. David P. Corey, professor in the department of neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, who will speak on “Biophysics, Genes, and Structure: An Integrated Understanding of the Inner Ear.”

• Dr. John K. Niparko, professor in the department of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who will speak on “Childhood Development after Cochlear Implantation.”

Presenters for the smell and taste section include:

• Dr. Richard Axel, university professor and investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Columbia University, who will speak on “Internal Representations of the Olfactory World.” Axel shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his groundbreaking research on the sense of smell.

• Dr. Gary K. Beauchamp, director and president of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, who will speak on “The Chemical Senses and Human Health: Food and the Environment.”

Presenters for the voice, speech and language section include:

• Dr. Helen Tager-Flusberg, professor in the department of anatomy and neurobiology, Boston University School of Medicine, who will speak on “Language Across the Life Span: Improving Lives in the 21st Century.”

Nobel laureate Dr. Richard Axel will also speak at the symposium.
Nobel laureate Dr. Richard Axel will also speak at the symposium.

• Dr. Robert E. Remez, professor in the department of psychology, Columbia University, who will speak on “Progress and Prospects in Research on Speech Perception.”

The symposium will also feature musical performances by Yew Choong Cheong, an internationally acclaimed pianist with hearing loss, and Richard Reed, a rock-and-roll and R&B musician who lost his hearing from exposure to ototoxic medications and who now wears a cochlear implant. Cheong, who is currently working toward his Ph.D. in music at West Virginia University, will be performing in the atrium during registration and throughout the closing reception. Reed will perform a first-hand demonstration on his keyboard of what music sounds like through a cochlear implant, titled “Music Lost and Found.”

Also providing remarks that day will be Dr. Raynard Kington, NIH deputy director; NIDCD director Dr. James F. Battey, Jr., and other NIDCD representatives. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who authored the legislation that created NIDCD, will be offering remarks by videotape. Scientific posters from NIDCD intramural researchers will be featured during the reception and professional and advocacy organizations in the area of communication disorders will be staffing exhibits featuring educational resources and other information.

For more information, see the symposium agenda at or call (301) 496-7243. Sign language interpreters will be provided. For reasonable accommodation to participate, contact Lonnie Lisle at or the Federal Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339. A captioned video of the symposium will be available on the web at a later date. NIHRecord Icon

back to top of page