Dr. Helena Solodar is co-owner of Audiological Consultants of Atlanta, the first private audiology and speech pathology practice in Georgia, which operates six offices and employs 10 licensed audiologists. Prior to forming Audiological Consultants of Atlanta, Dr. Solodar was co-owner of Occupational Noise Consultants (ONC), Inc., the first female-owned hearing conservation practice in Georgia. In 1983, she and her business partner sold ONC, Inc., to a national concern and opened their current practice. Dr. Solodar began her professional career in 1975, when she founded Professional Hearing Aid Associates.
Dr. Solodar earned her bachelor’s degree in special education from the University of Georgia, her master’s degrees in both audiology and speech pathology from the University of South Carolina, and her doctor of audiology (AuD) from the University of Florida. Dr. Solodar’s professional memberships include the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), the Audiology Resource Association (ARA), the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA), and the Georgia Academy of Audiology (GAA).
Appointed by the governor of Georgia to serve on the State Board of Examiners for Hearing Aid Dealers and Dispensers, Dr. Solodar served on the board for nine years. In 2008, she was appointed by the Georgia Speaker of the House, Glen Richardson, to serve as a member of the Georgia Hearing Commission for Hearing Impaired and Deaf Persons, where she currently serves as the Chair of the Commission. She was honored at the Georgia State Capitol by the House of Representatives by receiving House Resolution 1726 presented in her name for outstanding service and achievement on February 24, 2009. Her other accolades include being named ARA Audiologist of the Year in 1995, and being named one of Atlanta’s business DIVAS in Business to Business magazine in 1999. She served as the 20th Anniversary Task Force Chair for the American Academy of Audiology’s 2008 AudiologyNOW convention, where she also received two prestigious awards, the State Leaders Network Advocate of the Year Award, and the Presidential Award. Dr. Solodar has served as a member of the Songbird Medical Advisory Board and on the Editorial Board for a national publication, and she was on the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Audiology from 2003-2007, serving as secretary/treasurer from 2004-2007. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Georgia Academy of Audiology and was its Convention Chair for 2007.
When did you first decide to become an audiologist? Why?
I first decided to become an audiologist while I was obtaining my undergraduate degree in special education at the University of Georgia. Speech pathology and audiology was housed in the education department at that time. After taking a course in speech language pathology, I decided that I needed a graduate degree to become more marketable. While in the master’s program at the University of South Carolina, I realized that the audiology courses that I was required to take were more interesting to me than the speech pathology courses; they were more medically oriented, which I liked.
How/why did you choose the audiology school you went to?
I got married immediately after receiving my undergraduate degree and my husband and I lived in Columbia, South Carolina. To stay close to home, I did not apply to any other school for admission other than the University of South Carolina.
What surprised you the most about your audiology studies?
There were no real surprises to me at that time other than how many practice settings one could work in. However, I knew that I always wanted to own my own independent business.
If you had it to do all over again, would you still become an audiologist? (Why or why not? What would you have done instead?)
Possibly I would do it all over again, but in truth my real love is medicine.
Has being an audiologist met your expectations? Why?
Although I am very passionate about and good at what I do, the challenge as a profession is to gain acceptance of our specialized role within the medical community. Their position often negatively influences, taints and stifles patient perception toward audiology and hearing aid services.
What do you like most about being an audiologist?
In my situation, I am an autonomous professional with an entrepreneurial spirit that can really make a difference in one’s life. As an audiologist, I am doing exactly what I want to do.
What do you like least about being an audiologist?
That many audiologists do not “own” the profession. By that, I mean they are allowing another profession or professional to dictate what they do and what they believe in.
What was it like finding a job in your chosen career field? What were your options and why did you decide what you did?
In 1975, there were only a few options, but financially they did not seem to be worthy of pursuit. I started my own practice immediately out of graduate school. Although difficult, it was the only option for me.
Describe a typical day at work.
No day is typical. In the early days, I did it all: see patients, market the practice, do the books, manage the business, and dream of ideas to grow the business. In these latter years, I still see patients, still market the practice, still manage the staff and the business, and still create and implement strategic plans and dream of ideas to enhance the business; very much the same, but on a much larger scale today.
What types of vendors do you work with?
We work with all vendors and manufacturers. We have contracts with other companies to provide services. We provide all tiers of technology to our patients depending on their lifestyle, hearing needs and budget.
On average: How many hours a week do you work? How many hours do you sleep per night? How many weeks of vacation do you take?
I’ve been told that I work all the time, truly 24/7. Whether at the office, at home, or on vacation, I’m always connected to my work in some way. I love what I do, I’m passionate about what I do and know that our patients appreciate the patient care that they receive.
I sleep approximately six hours per night. But I’m not a sound sleeper and never sleep through the night. I’m a thinker and wake up finding myself creating lists and ideas of what I either need to do or would like to incorporate in my plan.
I take as many weeks of vacation as I can. I work hard and usually play hard.
Are you satisfied with your income?
It could always be better, but I have been very fortunate to reap the benefits of my hard work.
If you took out educational loans, is/was paying them back a financial strain?
Fortunately, I did not have to take out educational loans.
In your position now, knowing what you do – what would you say to yourself 10 years ago?
Buy your own buildings or offices instead of paying rent.
What information/advice do you wish you had known when you were beginning audiology studies?
I wish I had known that it will always be a challenge and you should never become complacent. You must stay on your toes, watch your competition, and remain focused on what you do best.
From your perspective, what is the biggest problem in healthcare today?
Government involvement in healthcare.
Where do you see audiology in 10 years?
In a very different place! I see major consolidation and more hearing aid sales directly to the consumer.
What types of outreach/volunteer work do you do, if any?
I’m the Chair for the Georgia Commission of Hearing Impaired and Deaf Persons, and I’m also an active Rotarian. In the past, I served on the American Academy of Audiology Board of Directors and on the Georgia Academy of Audiology, serving as President. I was very active in my children’s schools during elementary, middle and high school years. As a practice, we are consistently visible in the community. We participate in a variety of speaking engagements to inform and educate the public on all hearing issues.
Do you have family? If so, do you have enough time to spend with them?
I have two beautiful children, Lauryn Elizabeth, 23, and Zachary, 21 along with a very wonderful and supportive husband. That being said, one can probably never spend enough time with family or friends.
Do you have any final piece of advice for students interested in pursuing audiology as a career?
Own the profession and the practice of audiology. Work in a setting that is consistent with your philosophy allowing you do what you do best. Don’t allow another profession or professional to dictate what you do and what you believe in. Be the best you can be and be the expert! Know that you can accomplish anything that you set out to do. You’ll meet challenges along the way, but stay focused and motivated to accomplish what you wish. Work hard to earn the respect of your colleagues and gain the confidence and comfort level necessary to get the job done. Patients recognize the difference in patient service and patient care.