Mission Accomplished for Deaf Medical Student

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Bob Hallinan

Executive Producer

Office: (913) 588-7284

Cell: (913)-481-7329



        When Bonnie McKee Crume starts her pediatrics residency at Boston Children’s Hospital this summer, she will be living her dream—one that few thought would actually happen.

Crume, who will graduate from the KU School of Medicine May 12, was born with bilateral severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss. Though some doubted her ability to handle medical school and clinical rotations, Crume will finish tied for the top spot in her class with a 4.0 grade-point average.

Considering she reads lips to communicate, the surgical rotations, which required masks to be worn by participants, were a particular challenge. To help accommodate Crume, the University of Kansas Medical Center and The University of Kansas Health System were able to put together a computer-based communication system. The system allowed what was being said in the operating room to be transcribed in real time onto a computer monitor so Crume could converse with her colleagues.

“We called it ‘the rig,’” she said. “KU put together an awesome team to assemble this machine, and Dr. Peter DiPasco (director of the Surgery Medical Student Clerkship) let us test it out in his operating room before starting the actual rotation, so that things would flow smoothly when it was time to start. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was incredibly cool.”

Basically the rig required the surgeon, resident and scrub tech to wear wireless microphones under their surgical masks. The mics were connected via a sound mixer to a PC, and their voice data were sent to transcribers via a secured connection on Adobe Connect. The transcribers would type the speech into a network where it would be displayed on a desktop monitor in the operating room. Each speaker’s voice was transcribed in a different color on the computer screen in the operating room, so Crume could tell who was talking.

Crume notes that since her surgical clerkship, clear masks with lip-reading capabilities have returned to the marketplace. “It would have made my surgical and OB/GYN clerkships a million times easier. But it’s the challenges that make you stronger. Plus, I wouldn’t have gotten to know the team and masterminds behind the rig.”

            The video includes an interview with Crume describing her journey to graduation and video of her in an operating room with the translating equipment.