Pentagon celebrates life of Indian-born audiologist Deepa Hariprasad

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Lt. Col. Deepa Hariprasad is the first Indian-American director of the Audiology and Speech Center at Walter Reed, reports Asian Lite News

Celebrating the Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May, the US Department of Defense has showcased the accomplishments of Indian origin officer Lt Col Deepa Hariprasad.

The Pentagon on Thursday published an article on the life of Lt Col Hariprasad, director of the Audiology and Speech Center, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.

The article ‘Indian-Born Audiologist Says Serving in the Military is Rewarding’ has been authored by David Vergun of DoD News and published on the official website of the US Department of Defence.

“Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have shaped the history of the United States and have had their lives dramatically influenced by moments in its history. In May every year, the US Defense Department joins the rest of the nation in celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month,” says the author at the start of the article.

Born in Mysore, India in 1977, Deepa’s parents emigrated to US when she was three years old. While her parents are Tamil and Kannada speakers, Deepa can speak neither of the two as her parents spoke with her in English.

Indian-
Army Lt. Col. Deepa Hariprasad, Air Force Maj. Nkumu B. Mandungu, and their children Samantha and Amanda, pose for a Christmas 2017 photo in New York City. (Courtesy US Department of Defense)

Hariprasad is married to an Air Force Major and is a mother of two. Despite not having chosen an arranged marriage like her parents or having not embraced some of the more traditional aspects of Indian life, there are cultural norms that she does embrace, the article points out.

Deepa loves to cooks vegetarian Indian food with variety and enjoys wearing Indian clothing and watching Indian movies — with English subtitles.

In 2003, Hariprasad received a direct commission into the Army, serving as an audiologist in the medical branch.

“The initial appeal was to try something new, serve my country, and have the opportunity to live in different places,” she is quoted as saying in the article.

An audiologist diagnoses and treats hearing loss and also focuses on the prevention of hearing loss.

Army Lt. Col. Deepa Hariprasad poses for a photo with Charles McGee sometime in 2020 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Md. McGee is one of the last living members of the Tuskegee Airmen. (Courtesy US Department of Defense)

She recounts educating her patients about health and teaching service members and noise-exposed civillians about hearing loss prevention as the favourite part of the job.

“I feel I am making a difference and helping others improve their quality of life. I also enjoy learning about people’s experiences and hearing their perspectives,” she reasons in the article.

Breaking the stereotypes of women in Indian culture of being reserved and shy, she overcame shyness while serving in leadership positions in the military.

Born in a very different belief system, she lacked confidence initially to try new things or stand up for herself or others. But her positions in the Army and Air Force helped shaper her character and personality for the better.

Calling it an honour and privilege for her to serve and provide healthcare for the veterans and their family members who sacrifice so much to serve our country, she said being an officer in the military has helped me develop discipline and improve my physical fitness.

Incidentally, Lt. Col. Deepa Hariprasad is the first Indian-American to serve as director of the Audiology and Speech Center at Walter Reed.

Army Lt. Col. Deepa Hariprasad, Air Force Maj. Nkumu B. Mandungu, and their children Samantha and Amanda, pose for a Thanksgiving 2016 photo at their home in Fort Sill, Okla. (Courtesy US Department of Defense)

The article quoted her saying that serving in the military had also resulted in lifelong friendships and given her travel opportunities she might not otherwise have had. She said she also enjoys the teamwork and camaraderie aspects of service life.

While at WRNMMC, Hariprasad has racked up many accomplishments.

Before serving at Walter Reed, Hariprasad said she provided pre- and post-deployment hearing testing and annual readiness testing for over 100,000 soldiers and noise- exposed civilians.

Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, Lt. Col. Deepa Hariprasad sustained clinical and readiness operations, serving over 12,000 patients in 2020 and assuming responsibility for hearing readiness exams during audiology clinic closures across the National Capital Region.

(Credit: India News Network)

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