Being a medical professional is hard work. Regardless of which field of medicine you choose, it takes years of education, superhuman work ethic, incredible intellect, and unparalleled compassion and empathy. And all that hard work and talent pays off. Not just financially, but also spiritually.
If you ask a group of healthcare professionals why they chose their line of work, most will respond with the same answer: They wanted to help people. In fact, a 2017 study by the American Medical Association confirms this, revealing that 75% of medical professionals cited helping people was their main motivator for choosing their line of work.
You can find few better examples of this than Joe Dansie, AuD, Clinical Audiologist at Peak ENT Associates in Provo, UT and Quin Card, AuD, Regional Sales Manager at e3 MSR West in Layton, UT. They met at Utah State University while each were pursuing a doctorate of audiology degree and have stayed close ever since through their work with Hear for a Purpose, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing hearing care to children in need in the Dominican Republic.
Dansie, Card, and several others, including Tiffany Molyneux Dansie, founded the Hear for a Purpose Foundation in 2016. Since then, they’ve made a trip to the Dominican Republic every year, with the exception of 2020, to perform hearing screening and diagnostic tests on children and fit hearing aids for them if needed.
“It started with us doing humanitarian trips with Utah State, and then, as we all graduated and became audiologists, everyone wanted to continue doing trips,” said Dansie. “So, we decided to go on a trip even though we didn’t have a formal 501(c)(3) at the time. After doing trips for a few years, we decided that, structurally, it would be better to have a 501(c)(3) to establish us as an official non-profit.”
While he was in graduate school at Utah State University in 2007, Dansie joined a mission trip to Mexico. The group consisted of around 20 audiology students, but they only treated about 30 patients while they were there. Dansie realized that they may have helped as many people as they could in the areas they were servicing, so he started thinking of other places they could go to help more people.
Prior to founding Hear for a Purpose, Dansie had lived in the Dominican Republic for a couple of years. During this time, he noticed that there was a significant amount of people with hearing loss that needed treatment. Because of this, he thought it made sense to start focusing humanitarian efforts there. So, he started doing research and made a few calls to local organizations to get the ball rolling.
“Since I had lived in the Dominican Republic for a couple of years, I thought we could go there since I had seen quite a few deaf people while I was living there,” said Dansie. “I started Googling and found a couple of different organizations that had done trips there, and they put me in contact with some people on the ground. From there, I was able to get in contact with the schools and have since maintained relationships with the directors of the schools as well as new contacts we’ve developed since the first trip.”
Hearing loss is more widespread than one would think in the Dominican Republic, and that’s mainly due to outbreaks of measles, mumps, and rubella that ravaged the country for a long time. Maternal rubella is a condition that is passed to the fetus if a pregnant woman contracts the disease during their pregnancy, and it is a well-documented cause of hearing loss.
A group of genetic conditions called Waardenburg syndrome is also a leading cause of hearing loss in children of the Dominican Republic. Common traits of Waardenburg syndrome include changes in coloring of hair, skin, and eyes. Many times, Dominican children with this genetic variant will have blue eyes. Moderate to profound hearing loss in one or both ears is a common symptom of Waardenburg syndrome.
A Small, But Mighty Group
When they are in the Dominican Republic, Hear for a Purpose focuses on providing essential hearing care services for children from underserved communities. These services include audiometry, cerumen (ear wax) removal, making ear molds, fitting hearing aids, and much more. Their work even goes beyond hearing care, as they also help make infrastructure improvements. For example, a member of the group measured the windows of a school and sewed handmade curtains that help reduce reverberation.
Providing high-quality hearing care services for these children in need requires professional equipment. Dansie has purchased some of the instruments with his own money and the rest of the group has pitched in for used equipment. Ultimately, Hear for a Purpose aims to permanently install audiologic equipment to establish a year-round clinic.
“Joe has purchased some of the equipment over the years and we’ve purchased some used equipment as well,” said Card. “All of the stuff we’ve taken down thus far has been temporary. We take it down with us and then bring it back. So that’s going to be changing moving forward as we make progress on our goals, and that’s where our partnership with e3 is going to help us procure equipment we need to establish a permanent clinic.”
Since its founding, Hear for a Purpose has grown significantly. During the first trip, the group fit 38 hearing aids. Comparatively, in 2019 they were able to fit close to 200. This can be credited to the significant momentum the organization has built over the past several years. After obtaining a 501(3)(c) in 2018, they were able to accept tax-deductible donations, allowing them to support more volunteers so they can accomplish more.
“It’s really rewarding,” said Dansie. “It’s fun to see it grow into a lot of different things. The foundation we work with down there had been working for three years before we teamed up with them and they’d only fit 14 hearing aids in that time. It’s been neat to see that we can make a bigger difference if we can help where we can, and they can help where they can and kind of build that relationship. It’s fun and rewarding because it’s one of those things where you can just help people hear better and not talk too much about money.”
A strong example of the rewarding work Hear for a Purpose does can be found in the story of Ramon, a 13-year-old Dominican boy with progressive hearing loss who traveled five hours to seek treatment from the group. His family could not afford hearing aids because they are so costly, and there isn’t access to quality audiological care near where he lives.
The team at Hear for a Purpose was able to successfully fit Ramon for hearing aids, allowing him to hear his mother’s voice again. Watch the video below to see his reaction.
“We fit his cousin and they were able to contact his family that lived clear on the other side of the Dominican Republic,” said Card. “Transportation there is not simple, so that boy had to travel a long time. It was quite a trek to get to us. Those are the stories you love.”
From Mission Trip to Official Non-Profit
With the growth in number of patients treated each year has come a boost in awareness for Hear for a Purpose. And as more people have learned about the organization and its mission, more have shown support. In addition to a variety of corporate sponsorships, including contributions from hearing care industry leaders such as Oticon, ReSound, Unitron, and Varta, they’ve received an overwhelming number of donations from the public.
“Something that has been amazing is that as we’ve gained momentum and awareness, it’s been amazing to see all the donations that have been sent to our house,” said Tiffany Molyneux-Dansie. “We’ve had huge amounts to the point where our porch is spilling over with boxes. It’s just amazing to see that people are willing to donate to this cause, and that while there are only nine of us that go down there, we’re not alone in this.”
The procurement of a 501(3)(c) has made a world of a difference for Hear for a Purpose and has allowed them to think even bigger for the future. Being an official non-profit and having the ability to receive tax-deductible donations has allowed them to raise enough money to support more volunteers. As they gain more financial support, they’ll look to add more people to the team.
Of course, having a background in audiology is a plus, but not a necessity for those who want to volunteer. In fact, the group needs more fluent Spanish speakers to help facilitate better communication between the team and the Dominican natives. They feel confident that they can train people up as long as they’re committed to the cause.
“There’s a lot of stuff that you can train people to do,” said Card. “We haven’t taken a lot of volunteers up until now because we haven’t had enough to support a larger group. With our goals and our 501(3)(c) status, it’s opening us up, so in the next couple of years we’re probably going to grow a lot and we’ll probably have a bigger need.”
Big Plans on the Horizon
While Hear for a Purpose has already accomplished so much in such a short time, their eyes are set on larger goals. To provide the best possible care for the children of the Dominican Republic, they feel they need to achieve these three goals.
The first goal is to provide follow up care for the patients they’ve already treated. This involves revisiting the schools, cleaning and repairing the hearing aids they previously provided, and fit hearing aids for new students that have arrived since their last visit.
Secondly, they want to meet with government officials and hospital administrators to make progress towards a long-term goal of establishing a newborn hearing screening clinic in the Dominican Republic. There is currently one located in Santo Domingo, but in other cities and more rural areas, newborn hearing screening is nonexistent.
Lastly, they want to establish a permanent hearing care clinic. They’ve already been in communication with contacts in the area and have had some proposals drawn up for different locations that might be best for transportation.
“We plan to visit some of the sites to see which one is the best central, most readily available location to the biggest population,” said Card. “Then we’re going to decide whether we might need to build a building or if there’s something there in place that we can rent with an option to buy and kind of move forward that way.”
Having this clinic space can make a significant impact on Hear for a Purpose’s efforts. Not only could they use it when they are down in the Dominican Republic, but other groups could also use the space when they aren’t there. Ideally, this would allow for year-round treatment for locals.
“That clinic would provide a space for other groups to use when they come out so the children could continue to get help throughout the year,” said Molyneux-Dansie. “There are a few audiometrists down there, who are like audiologists, but only have a two-year degree. We’re trying to set up a professional scholarship program so they can get funding to complete their education and commit hours or work full time for the clinic in return.”
Once Hear for a Purpose has completed their goals for the Dominican Republic, they hope to be able to continue their good work and spread their efforts to other countries in need. However, they understand that they have a lot of work ahead of them before they can do that.
If or when they manage to meet all their goals for the Dominican Republic, they would like to provide care to other areas of the world. In the end, if they can build out and establish a successful model, they would love to be able to replicate it in other countries in need of hearing care services.
“It depends on how fast it scales,” said Dansie. “First, we just want to help build out the infrastructure in the Dominican Republic. We’ve talked a little bit about Mexico, as we already have some connections there. The hardest thing is establishing good connections on the ground so that patients have good aftercare. If we can do all that, we’re open to expanding.”
“We definitely have that in mind and if we can get it permanently running, which is our long-term goal, then we’ll have enough of a model where we can duplicate it somewhere else,” added Card. “But it’s going to be a little while, I think, before we reach that point. If we can get something set up permanently there and we are no longer needed, then why not do the same thing somewhere else?”
As of now, Hear for a Purpose intends to make a trip to the Dominican Republic in the fall. This will be the first time they’ve made the trip since 2019, as they were unable to travel in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are so excited to get back that they’ve already purchased their plane tickets even though it is uncertain that they will be allowed travel. They are hoping there will be no restrictions established between now and the date of their flight.
And while they’re preparing for yet another trip to the Dominican Republic, they are still in disbelief about how far they’ve come.
“We kind of talk about how we started,” said Molyneux-Dansie. “We just went as a group of friends who were like ‘Hey, let’s get a few hearing aids and see if we can do this.’ So, it went from this group of friends who wanted to do something good to us thinking ‘We can go back and do this again,’ and then it’s like ‘Actually, let’s make a foundation,’ and now we’re looking at making a clinic. It’s become its own life form that allows us to do something amazing”
If you would like to contribute to Hear for a Purpose, you can donate money on their website via PayPal or on their Facebook page. Additionally, you can send cash or checks via mail to the address listed on their website. Any donations are welcome. In fact, they recently received a generous donation of nearly 200 Oticon hearing aids. If you’d like to donate something other than money, get in touch with Hear for a Purpose to learn more about what they need.