Eliminating Stigma, Breaking Barriers

by School of Nursing and Health Professions

Nursing is a career where a passion for service means helping people at their most vulnerable times.

For Jonathan Balisi Manalang ‘19, nursing was a career that helped him embrace his own vulnerability — his hearing.

At the 2019 Best of Student Success Showcase, the Provost's Realizing the Mission Award winner showed the USF nursing community a lesser-known side of the (D)deaf community and his commitment to eliminating stigma and promoting greater awareness.

Jonathan's educational journey was more challenging than the average student. To work through the program, he relied on interpreters to optimize patient-clinician interactions. Due to the complicated terminologies and processes that make up the nursing curriculum, it wasn’t an easy task to schedule experienced and skillful interpreters. Interruptions for clarification during patient-clinician interactions had the potential to cause disconnects and take time away from actual conversation. In school, even slight nuances between signed and written languages on an exam or a quiz could translate into comprehension difficulties. But Jonathan was determined to succeed despite these obstacles and he did with stellar results.

New Perspectives

Wanting to bridge the gap between the hearing and Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) community, Jonathan was inspired to showcase his work: Spoken English and Sign Language Simultaneously to Understand D(d)eaf Culture.

Jonathan's research explored the impact of different educational systems on groups within the community and analyzed their perspectives on both deaf and mainstream cultures. Jonathan is inspired to become a good role model for the DHH community and highlight different perspectives, possibilities, and outcomes.

Enrolled into a Total Communication (TC) educational curriculum from a young age, Jonathan received instruction through simultaneous communication of oral speech/language and sign communication. Still, Jonathan often had to explain to those who thought he was unable to hear or speak — Jonathan can hear with the help of cochlear implants.

There are many members of the deaf community who exclusively use American Sign Language (ASL) or do not wear hearing aids. Jonathan's research explored the impact of different education systems on different groups within the DHH community and analyzed their perspectives on both deaf cultures and the mainstream community concerning factors such as parental impact, support systems, and higher education.

"I am happy to show that there are many dimensions to the deaf community. Society imposes certain limitations on you — if you're deaf, you're stuck in this box, and the things you do are limited — I want to show everyone we can break out of that box, and we can do everything a hearing person can, except hear."

Strengths and Collective Success

Jonathan believes that it is essential to play to your strengths and seek out help when necessary. Besides relying on verbal cues and his interpreter, he made an effort to connect with his patients by keeping consistent eye contact and empathizing with them.

"Don't worry about how your weakness can affect you and definitely do not make assumptions about others. There's no barrier that can't be overcome. If a hearing person can do it — whatever field it might be — a deaf person can too. I am going to change the world from here, and I will be a part of that change for sure."

As one of the most diverse campuses in the nation, USF brings together individuals of different strengths to help one another. Jonathan has cited the support of his professors, peers, and interpreters as important to his success throughout his academic journey. He is grateful to the community at USF for willing to go the extra mile to work with him and understand his needs, creating a conducive learning environment in which everyone benefits.