Cochlear Implant Program | Cochlear Implant Team

Our Implant Surgeons






Craig Buchman, MD

Richard Chole, MD, PhD

Andrew Drescher, MD

Jonathan McJunkin, MD

J. Gail Neely, MD, FACS


Audiologists and Support Staff


Jill Firszt is a Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology and Director of the Cochlear Implant Program at Washington University School of Medicine. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Program in Audiology and Communication Sciences at Central Institute for the Deaf at Washington University. She earned her BS in Speech and Hearing Science, MA in Educational Audiology, and PhD in Speech and Hearing Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She has been working with cochlear implant adult and pediatric patients in clinical and research studies since 1985.


Laura Holden graduated in 1986 with a Master of Arts degree in Audiology from the University of Illinois and has obtained her Doctor of Audiology degree from Arizona School for Health Science. She joined Washington University School of Medicine in 1986 as a clinical audiologist and in 1989 began working full time with cochlear implant patients. Today, Dr. Holden’s primary involvement is in cochlear implant research activities. Her interest lies in optimizing patient benefit from a cochlear implant, especially improving patients’ speech understanding in difficult listening situations such as background noise. Dr. Holden has served on the Audiology Advisory Boards for Cochlear Americas and Advanced Bionics Corporation.


Lisa Potts graduated from Washington University in 1991 with a M.S. in Speech and Hearing and in 2006 with a Ph.D. in Communication Sciences. She has been with Washington University School of Medicine since 1991. Dr. Potts began work in the Hearing Rehabilitation and Cochlear Implant program in 2000. Her clinical interests include cochlear implants, aural rehabilitation and hearing aids. Her research interests include electrophysiologic measures of the auditory nerve and binaural processing. Dr. Potts has many research publications and presentations, and teaches in the Audiology and Communication Sciences graduate program at Washington University.


Brenda Diebold Gotter received a Master of Science (M.S.) degree in Speech and Hearing from Washington University in 1997. She has been with the Hearing Rehabilitation and Cochlear Implant Program at Washington University since 2002. She completed her Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) degree in July 2007. Her clinical interests include cochlear implant programming and aural rehabilitation.


Sallie Schiel Vanderhoof completed her M.A. Degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Saint Louis University in 1992. She obtained her Master of Science Degree in Speech and Hearing from Washington University in 1997 and completed her Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) degree from the Arizona School of Health Sciences in 2008. Since 2001, she has been involved with many cochlear implant research projects, and she joined the Washington University Hearing Rehabilitation and Cochlear Implant Program in 2003. She serves as guest lecturer for the Program in Audiology and Communication Sciences at Washington University. Her clinical interests include aural rehabilitation, cochlear implant evaluation, and cochlear implant programming.


Karen Mispagel attained a M.S. degree in Speech and Hearing Science from Washington University in 2001. Following graduation, she began working in the Department of Otolaryngology at Washington University as a clinical audiologist in the Adult Division of Audiology. She joined the cochlear implant program in 2006 and received her Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) degree in 2009. She currently evaluates, programs and provides auditory rehabilitation to cochlear implant candidates and recipients and actively assists in the collection of data for several research projects in the Hearing Rehabilitation and Cochlear Implant Program.


Ruth Reeder received a Bachelor’s degree in Deaf Education from Illinois State University in 1973 and a Master’s degree in Educational Audiology from the University of Illinois in 1981. She began working with children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and their families in the early 1970's and has worked in the field of cochlear implants since the late 1980’s. Ruth has extensive experience in candidacy, pre- and post-implant evaluation, and device programming with all ages (infants through adults). She joined the Hearing Rehabilitation and Cochlear Implant Program at Washington University as a Research Scientist in 2005 and is involved in a number of research projects.


Andrea Gregg received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Truman State in Missouri in 1999 and her Master of Science Degree in Speech Language Pathology from Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. in 2001. She has extensive experience providing aural rehabilitation to adult cochlear implant recipients and children of all ages who have hearing loss. Her areas of expertise include aural rehabilitation for adults, speech and language evaluations, educational programming and therapy for children with hearing loss.


Sarah Nicewaner attained her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Southeast Missouri State University in the fall of 2006. Since graduation, she has worked in various areas of management, focusing on helping people and providing exceptional customer service. Sarah has recently joined the Cochlear Implant program in August of 2015 as the Administrative Coordinator. She assists patients with the cochlear implant process, as well as providing administrative support to the team of audiologists, speech pathologists, nurses and surgeons.


Noël Dwyer joined the Firszt Lab in the fall of 2011. She brings her audiology and cochlear implant experience to the team along with her interest in research. Noël received her clinical doctorate in audiology (AuD) from Washington University School of Medicine after completing a year-long fellowship with the WUSM Adult Cochlear Implant Program. In addition to working directly with study participants, Noël assists with data management, data analysis, manuscript preparation and participates on the clinical cochlear implant team. She has a wide range of interests, including Russian Studies, for which she received her Bachelor of Arts from Vassar College in New York.


Tim Holden earned his Bachelor of Engineering degree from the University of Iowa and has been a researcher with the Washington University Cochlear Implant Program since 1985. His area of expertise includes reconstructions of CT images of the cochlea for cochlear implant patients before and after surgery. This CT analysis is part of a longitudinal study to optimize the benefit from cochlear implants by examining electrode array insertion with speech recognition test results. Tim supports testing hardware and software used in the Research Program and aids in the design and creation of programs based on C, MATLAB, and other software programs.