February 12, 2009
Dear Friend of Idaho State University:
Idaho is in the world spotlight this week as host of the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games, and Idaho State University is honored to be a part of this historic celebration.
As the Special Olympics torch made its way through Eastern Idaho en route to the Treasure Valley, I marveled at the sheer scope of the event: more than 2,500 athletes from 100 countries competing in skiing, snowboarding, hockey and skating.
I'd like to recognize the service of more than 100 Idaho State University faculty, students and staff from both Pocatello and Boise who have donated countless hours to make the Games a success.
Many are volunteering through the Special Olympics Healthy Athlete Initiative, a program created in 1996 to improve the athletes' overall health and fitness. The program focuses on seven disciplines including hearing, health and dental care.
ISU-Boise professor and audiologist, Mel Miller, Ph.D., is in charge of the Healthy Hearing program for the World Winter Games.
"It is a privilege to work with these young athletes," says Miller, who has been involved with Special Olympics for four years. "They teach you so much about courage, joy for life and not letting others define your limitations. They just lift you up."
His team of health-care professionals includes 51 audiology and graduate speech-language pathology students and faculty from ISU programs in Pocatello and Boise. They expect to screen as many as 400 athletes a day for possible hearing loss, fit hearing aids, and train hearing professionals from visiting countries on "Healthy Hearing" protocols, which they will institute at home.
Miller explains people often assume Special Olympics athletes experience communication problems because of an intellectual disability when, in fact, it may be due to hearing loss.
Other ISU volunteers include dentists, hygienists, assistants and office staff from our dental clinics, who are conducting dental examinations and educating athletes about oral health. Our Boise dietetic interns and physician-assistant studies students are conducting health assessments and providing information on to make healthy lifestyle choices.
As president of Idaho's lead institution in health-professions and health-sciences education, I am honored to share our expertise with organizers of the Special Olympics World Winter Games. I am thrilled we are making a difference in the lives of these courageous athletes, their families, coaches and caregivers.
On another note, I'd like to recognize Bessie Katsilometes, the dean of academic programs at ISU-Boise. She is one of 50 women selected as an honoree in the 2009 Idaho Women of the Year competition sponsored by the Idaho Business Review.
Dean Katsilometes, who will be honored at an awards banquet in Boise on March 26, was selected for her professional achievements, community involvement and volunteer work.
Congrats to you all—Special Olympians, ISU volunteers and Dean Katsilometes. In your own way, you are demonstrating service, leadership and what it means to achieve your dreams.
Arthur C. Vailas, Ph.D.
President, Idaho State University