2020 Focus on
People Awards

Hearing Care Practitioner category


Sheri Mello, AuD

Raleigh, NC

Meet the masked crusader! In the early days of the pandemic, Sheri was among the first to speak out about the challenges people with hearing loss encounter in the new normal of a mask-wearing public. After discovering a mask pattern with a clear vinyl portion over the mouth, she gathered volunteer seamstresses in her community and distributed the masks to patients for free. What began as an effort to help families of patients communicate more clearly with their loved ones grew quickly. In May, CNN and other national and local news channels shared Sheri’s clear mask campaign and promoted the importance of keeping the lines of communication open for everyone, especially people with hearing loss.


Jessica Messersmith, PhD

Vermillion, SD

Many words describe Jessica – educator, clinician, advocate, scientist. A professor and chair of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of South Dakota, she gives people the power and knowledge they need to make informed decisions and advocate for themselves and others with hearing loss. Through her research, Jessica demonstrates how specific techniques hinder or improve the experiences of pediatric patients. She served as lead author on “AAA Clinical Practice Guideline: Cochlear Implants” and as lead investigator for grants addressing newborn screening, intervention and follow-up. In addition to her clinical and teaching duties, twice each year, Jessica travels with audiology students to western South Dakota to hold pediatric hearing clinics in underserved areas.


Kristina Sheehan, AuD

Fort Wayne, IN

Tina is passionate about giving people the information they need to successfully navigate the world with hearing loss. This year, she has doubled down to advocate for students with hearing loss returning to school amid the COVID pandemic, working closely with teachers and schools. As director of audiology at GiveHear, Tina leads a dedicated team providing hearing healthcare to underserved adults and children. Through the nonprofit’s Circle of Giving program, patients give volunteer hours to the community for each hearing aid they receive. This unique approach reflects Tina’s own commitment to build the self-worth of individuals by restoring their hearing potential and provide them with opportunities to engage with their community through service to others.

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