“One Who Listens” (OWL) Awards

Who is the "Listener" in Your Life?

People with vestibular disorders often wish for someone to listen to them with empathy, not judgment or dismissiveness, and with an understanding of the emotional impact vestibular disorders have. The OWL Awards recognize three individuals or organizations (clinic, foundation, non-profit, hospital, etc.) for their contribution to the healing power of listening.

This event was inspired by Jim Hainlen, a vestibular patient who presented the first-ever OWL Award and participates in selecting the winner each year.

OWL Award Winners, 2023

Dr. Yoon-Hee Cha

Dr. Cha is the most attentive, good-listening doctor I have ever had. Not only is she brilliant and at the top of her field, but she takes the time—whatever time it takes—to listen to her patients, take their full history, do clinical tests, no matter how long it takes. She is very generous with her time, and always kind and empathetic. She pays attention to details that matter even when I as a patient didn’t realize they mattered. She is open-minded and will try testing and treatments until she knows she can help her patients. She is also wonderful regarding interdisciplinary collaborations, which are essential in vestibular disorders, and refers patients to amazing providers in related specialties. Most of all, I know she truly cares and sees patients as whole persons and not just “cases”.

She diagnosed my somewhat unusual cause of vestibular dysfunction very early on. If it hadn’t been for her I would have spent years chasing various diagnoses and symptoms. She put me on the path to treatment and was there for me through the ups and downs, trials and errors, not only directly under her specialty but also with the other doctors I had to see for my related conditions. I knew I could count on her for connecting the dots, troubleshooting, for prescription refills, MyChart questions outside of appointments, medical notes for accommodations, etc etc. if I hadn’t been lucky to meet her two years ago I would still be dizzy and in debilitating pain. And through it all she reminded me, in her words, that I should “have enjoyment in life” (when I was trying a strict elimination diet on my own that left me malnourished and discouraged and didn’t work because my vestibular issues are not related to food).

Dr. Christopher Hill

As he walked into the exam room, ENT physician Dr. Christopher Hill’s first words to me were, “I’m really sorry you have been going through this. This is rare.” Like many chronic vertigo patients, I had seen a slew of providers. Not one of them ever made such an incredibly compassionate statement. I instantly relaxed, knowing I had a provider who would understand the immense hardships I had been facing with the Mal de Debarquement Syndrome (MdDS). Dr. Hill spent over an hour carefully, empathetically listening to me and helping me formulate a treatment plan. I firmly believe that Dr. Hill deserves an OWL Award because he has the natural gift of compassionate listening that has made such an immense impact on my life with this devastating illness. Dr. Hill treated me successfully with a biopsychosocial approach, and he had full faith in me as a patient. He is a phenomenal listener, he is extraordinarily talented, and I have no doubt he is truly a gift to all of his patients.

I am currently serving on active duty in the US Navy. When I first faced MdDS and the excruciating symptoms, I feared my career in the military would abruptly end. However, Dr. Hill was the only provider who gave me hope. We worked together to formulate a treatment plan that has kept me thriving in service and has guided me to a state of full remission! I am forever grateful to Dr. Hill for being my keen listener and guiding light through the most stressful health scare of my life. Before seeing Dr. Hill, I feared being misunderstood and dismissed by providers. When I first saw Dr. Hill and showed him my “patient binder,” including journal articles on MdDS, he had already read the articles! We are an awesome team. Dr. Hill has gone way above and beyond the call of a physician to make the single biggest impact on my life with MdDS. I very respectfully request that you recognize his impact and select him as an OWL award recipient.

Dr. Beth Yule

Very rarely do we stop to take a moment to thank or show gratitude to someone publicly. Some health professionals work tirelessly to help & Beth is one of those rare finds. She has been my rock (along with Veda of course), my 1 stop shop, not just for my vestibular issues but also for my mental health & overall well-being. She’s always available if I have concerns or questions.

Without Beth’s support, I am not sure where I’d be today – probably still in that circle of hospitals & GPs with no progress or hope. She has kept me on track & has been the first person not to fob me off with vestibular symptoms. I am now starting to get some quality of life return. Beth has shown me respect, care & concern since day 1. She has been there to listen & encourage me & most importantly believed in me when I didn't believe in myself.

• Body - this one is the "easy" one. I've had ongoing treatment of my neck & a bunch of exercises 🙂
• Mind - assisted me with getting my mental health back on track. Gave me letters for the GP & has always been there to have a chat.
• Spirit - gave me hope when I had none
• Self - reminded me that I was important & I could get some quality of life back
• Life - pretty much gave me a reason to live when I was at my worst