When you feel connected to serving a greater purpose, you never work a day in your life. For decades, Starkey Hearing Foundation has traveled the world equipping hearing health care professionals with the knowledge and tools to serve their communities. While the COVID-19 pandemic has put our 2020 missions on hold, our network has even grown during this time, highlighting the importance of hearing health and inspiring me to reflect on the work we have accomplished.

Since its inception, the Starkey Hearing Foundation has had the fortune of sharing the gift of hearing in over 100 countries. Over time, we saw an immense and growing need for more hearing health care professionals in developing parts of the world. Through many hearing missions, as we built strong connections with communities and government leaders across Africa, we discovered an opportunity to create an even longer-lasting impact. In 2015, we opened the Starkey Hearing Institute in Lusaka, Zambia to help fill the global need for hearing health resources. Earlier this year, 11 new hearing health care professionals from five African countries graduated from the Institute and began their journey to providing hearing health care services to their communities.

The Institute provides accredited, full-year professional ear and specialized hearing health education, which includes hands-on training in direct patient care. The training allows them to treat preventable cases of hearing loss and serve those who wear hearing aids and need regular examinations. The efforts of the Starkey Hearing Institute help support one of the largest clinical and community-based hearing health care training operations in the entire world. Through the Institute, we’ve been able to educate and empower these caring individuals who want to help others through the gift of hearing.

Though the pandemic kept Tani and me from celebrating with the graduating class of 2020 in person, I had the opportunity to briefly speak with the students about the importance of patient care and doing what is right. Connecting virtually to share our well wishes and hear from the graduates filled us with gratitude. Staying connected and instilling knowledge to equip the next generation of leaders is the most powerful impact Tani and I can make. In times of crisis, the importance of our connections to each other becomes even more profound. I’m proud of this group of professionals, and I’m happy technology has allowed us to connect in ways not previously thought possible.

My greatest purpose in life is to help show others their full potential. The work of the 2020 graduates from the Starkey Hearing Institute will be felt for decades. By empowering them with this education, they will, in turn, empower others to reach their full potential through the gift of hearing. This year has taught us the importance of recognizing our own abilities to positively impact the world. The need for connection and the need for hearing health care resources around the globe has made our journey impactful and rewarding. Congratulations to the Starkey Hearing Institute’s Class of 2020!