Cochlear announces 2024 winners of annual scholarships

February 22, 2024

Media Contact

Christy LaPlante
Public Relations Manager
Cochlear Americas

Cochlear announces 2024 winners of annual scholarships

The Graeme Clark, Anders Tjellström and Vocational Scholarships recognize exemplary leaders throughout the hearing loss community


Lone Tree, Colo (Feb 22, 2024) Eight outstanding Cochlear™ Nucleus® Implant, Cochlear Baha® System and Cochlear Osia® System recipients have been announced as the winners of the 2024 annual Cochlear Academic Scholarships. From founding nonprofit organizations to performing in musicals, to telling underrepresented stories through visual art, and much more, each of the recipients have extraordinary stories on top of their perseverance through hearing loss. 

The scholarships recognize Cochlear recipients in the United States and Canada who uphold the Cochlear ideals of leadership, humanity, and demonstrate high academic achievement. 
This year we received more than 180 submissions from our accomplished recipients. Each and every applicant has an impressive story of overcoming challenges while contributing to their communities in their own way. We are honored to be just a part of their amazing journeys,” René Courtney, Vice President & General Manager, Recipient Services, Cochlear Americas, and head of the Academic Scholarships Program, said. 

In its 22nd year, the Graeme Clark Scholarship is named after Professor Graeme Clark who invented the multi-channel cochlear implant and is awarded to academically exceptional Cochlear Nucleus Implant recipients. The 2024 Graeme Clark Scholarship winners are: 

  • Julianne Hill Blackburn, (Samford University) from Homewood, AL. Inspired by her experiences with deafness and her cochlear implants, she is currently studying for a Master of Science in Physician Assistant (PA) Studies hoping to both improve patients' lives and to teach others how to advocate for themselves as a PA the way she has been supported. 
  • Christopher Lee, (Washington University, St. Louis), from Edmond, OK. A talented musician, Lee is majoring in psychology and minoring in anthropology while also doing hearing science/language research with the psychology department during his spare time. 
  • Mackenzie Martin, (NYU Grossman School of Medicine), from Lexington, MA. Passionate about addressing health challenges within our society, she is pursuing a medical degree drawing upon her own experience as a patient, advocate, volunteer, and investigator to help improve patients’ quality of life. 
  • Aaron Reynoso, (Northwestern University), from Glendale Heights, IL. He is studying chemical engineering, with the goal of one day conducting research for improving treatments with medication, along with a minoring in biotechnology. 

It is because of Cochlear that I have become determined in my mission of helping others through medical research, and with this scholarship, I can learn with no barriers in my way to carry out my mission, to hopefully find new medical discoveries like the one made by Graeme Clark that has allowed me to live my life in both the hearing world and the deaf world,” Aaron Reynoso, Cochlear Nucleus implant recipient and Graeme Clark Scholarship recipient said.  

In its 13th year, the Anders Tjellström Scholarship is named after Dr. Anders Tjellström, who in collaboration with others created the first bone conduction hearing implant and has worked tirelessly to restore hearing to people around the world. The 2024 Anders Tjellström Scholarship winners are:

  • Schantelle Alonzo, Baha System recipient, (School of Visual Arts), from Chicago, IL. Born with atresia/microtia she is inspired by the power of art and has decided to pursue an animation degree with a mission to share stories of underrepresented people.
  • Timothy Bilik, Osia System recipient, (South Dakota School of Mines and Technology), from Milford, NH. Shortly after his Osia System activation, he started engineering school where he is thriving and enjoying the challenges of studying computer engineering.
  • Elana Rose Lapetina, Baha System recipient, (East Carolina University), from Norfolk, VA. Featured in the Netflix™ documentary "Pharrell Williams' Voices of Fire" she is taking her vocal and theatrical talent to the next level studying theater and theatrical arts.

I heard sounds I had never perceived: a public bus stopping, a plane in the distance, clarity in conversations and music. It was an emotional and euphoric experience to gain the full capacity of my hearing. To this day, I am immensely grateful for the advancements of medical technology and hearing restoration,” Elana Rose Lapetina said about her Baha Sound Processer.

Now in its second year, the scholarships include the Cochlear Americas Vocational Scholarship, for students attending technical, vocational or trade schools. The 2024 Cochlear Americas Vocational Scholarship winner is:

  • Max Grefe, (Academies of Loudoun, The Monroe Advanced Technical Academy), from Chantilly, VA.  He is studying occupational studies in culinary arts and business administration in food business management and is not only passionate about cooking but also being a part of and helping the deaf community.

After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, I plan to pursue opening my own restaurant or become a private chef. I'd like to inspire other deaf and hard of hearing people to get in the kitchen and learn to cook and create. It would be amazing to have a Deaf staff to grow and support,” Max Grefe, winner of the Cochlear Vocational Scholarship said.

Academic scholarship winners will receive $2,000 per year for up to four years at an accredited college or university, providing $8,000 to each student. Vocational scholarship winners receive $2,000 per year for up to two years. This adds up to $60,000 in total scholarship funds given by Cochlear Americas for this year’s winners. Since 2002, Cochlear Americas has awarded $1,024,000 to 128 college students.

About the Scholarships

A total of 188 applications were received this year. An esteemed panel of judges helped review and select the scholarship winners:

Erika Gagnon, Au.D., CCC-A
Clinical Assistant Professor, Audiology Manager, Children’s Cochlear Implant Center at UNC

Michelle Kraskin, Au.D., CCC-A
Assistant Director, Audiology and Speech Language Pathology, Weill Cornell Medicine

Kathy Newbern, Med., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT
Speech Language Pathologist & Auditory-Verbal Therapist, Atlanta Speech School

Leslie Rosenthal, Au.D., CCC-A
Director, Speech and Audiology, Department of Otolaryngology, LIJ Hearing and Speech Center

Gabrielle S. Watson, Au.D., CCC-A
Clinical Audiologist, Michigan Medicine Cochlear Implant Program, Hearing Rehabilitation Center, Department of Otolaryngology

For more information about the scholarships, visit

About Cochlear Limited (ASX: COH)

People have always been Cochlear’s inspiration, ever since Professor Graeme Clark set out to create the first multi-channel cochlear implant after seeing his father struggle with hearing loss. Since 1981, Cochlear has provided more than 700,000 devices in more than 180 countries, helping people of all ages around the world to hear. As the global leader in implantable hearing solutions, Cochlear connects people with life’s opportunities, and welcomes them to the world’s largest hearing implant community.

Cochlear has a global workforce of more than 4,500 people, with a passion for progress, who strive to meet the needs of people living with hearing loss. The company continually innovates to anticipate future needs, investing more than AUD$2 billion to date in research and development to push the boundaries of technology and help more people hear.



Please seek advice from your health professional about treatments for hearing loss. Outcomes may vary, and your health professional will advise you about the factors which could affect your outcome. Always read the instructions for use. Not all products are available in all countries. Please contact your local Cochlear representative for product information.

Views expressed are those of the individual. Consult your health professional to determine if you are a candidate for Cochlear technology.

For a full list of Cochlear’s trademarks, please visit our Terms of Use page.