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Chad Ruffin, MD
co-founder

Dr. Chad Ruffin is the first congenitally deaf person to become a surgeon using cochlear implants. His unique combination as a person with hearing loss, an ear surgeon, and a scientist trained in both auditory cognition and the encoding of sound with cochlear implants drives his innovation and advocacy for the d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing.  

He aspired to become a surgeon despite that universities were barely considering d/Deaf physicians for non-surgical specialty training. His drive to accomplish this goal led him to create a multi-speaker hearing aid as a medical student. He was recruited to Indiana University by Dr. Richard Miyamoto, a world-renowned pioneer in pediatric cochlear implantation, who wanted “to show the world what cochlear implants could do.” Dr. Ruffin's completion of a rigorous surgical training program has given him keen insight into the skill set necessary for d/Deaf individuals to succeed.

He has received research grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the American Academy of Otolaryngology, and the National Institutes of Health. He has been published in multiple journals and his advocacy efforts were recognized by Science. As an honored attendee at the American Academy of Achievement, he shared the challenges of hearing loss with multiple heads of state and other luminaries. He has also shared his insights at the Exponential Medicine Conference hosted by Singularity University.

Marcie Johnson, MPA
CO-Founder

Marcie Johnson is congenitally deaf, communicates orally, and is fluent in American Sign Language. She is a physician assistant who attended UCLA and completed graduate school at Samuel Merritt University. She was the recipient of her graduate program’s inaugural rural health care grant, and she was honored with the University’s highest award at graduation.

Marcie is invested in helping patients and students succeed in spite of the day-to-day challenges of living with hearing loss. She currently works as a physician assistant in an otology practice where she uses her personal experience with hearing loss to provide insights into helping this population. As a long-time member of the executive leadership of the Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Loss (AMPHL), she led an overhaul of its media and worked closely on organizational restructuring.

These first-hand leadership experiences and mentorship of many d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing people have reinforced her belief that successful communication is the product of mindful listening, whether with the eyes or the ears. This philosophy has been augmented by her previous work as a physician assistant in primary/urgent care and by extensive international travel, including working abroad in Scotland and New Zealand.

Together, these experiences have provided Chad and Marcie with a broad knowledge of the communication needs to improve outcomes in people who are d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing. Their passion for mindful listening and communication drives RuffLab to create medical interventions, devices, and advocacy programs that gets to the heart of hearing loss to improve the lives of patients.