October 6, 2003

New center helps people raise their voices

By Kathi Baker

From baritones to broadcasters, from salespersons to schoolteachers, millions of Americans depend on the normal functioning of their voices to win friends, influence people and bring home the bacon. Yet scores of factors, ranging from poor vocal technique to diseases of the mouth and throat, can threaten one’s ability to speak or sing with confidence and authority.

To provide a resource in Atlanta for those suffering from vocal diseases and disorders, the Emory Voice Center has been created at Crawford Long Hospital. Directed by Michael Johns III, a voice and throat specialist who developed his expertise in the voice care community of Music City (Nashville, Tenn.), the center provides novel imaging systems for viewing the larynx; a special lab for testing purposes; a speech and language pathologist; and a voice specialist. It is equipped to diagnose, treat and rehabilitate voice disorders for those who make their living by using their voice.

“The Emory Voice Center fills a void for Atlantans,” said Doug Mattox, chair of otolaryngology. “A metropolitan area of this size will benefit from the convenience of multidisciplinary care of skilled professionals who are accomplished in the treatment of voice disorders. We offer our patients a well-rounded team, in one location, to serve their needs in the most competent way.”

Johns comes to Emory from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he was actively involved in the diagnosis and treatment of voice disorders. He is the author of numerous papers, abstracts and book chapters and participated in a study funded by an American Laryngological Voice Research and Education Foundation grant on vocal fold paralysis.

“An important component of maintaining voice health is comprehensive treatment by a designated team of experienced voice experts,” Johns said. “We intend to provide a thorough, multidisciplinary approach that will be enhanced by patient access to education, and a research arm that will provide opportunities to consistently stay abreast of new developments. Our connection to the School of Medicine faculty and the Emory Healthcare clinicians affords us the capability to utilize the highest standards of care.”

Patient care is not just limited to voice disorders such as voice misuse and overuse. Patients will receive treatment for such ailments as laryngopharyngeal reflux, laryngeal tumors, spasmodic dysphonia, vocal cord paralysis, vocal fold scarring, vocal fold nodules and polyps, vocal fold bowing, and vocal hydration. The center plans to develop its own preventive health program for the speaking voice. A research component in both clinical and basic science research, in collaboration with labs at Emory and Georgia Tech, also will be an integral part of the program.

Johns received his medical degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and his residency training in otolaryngology at the University of Michigan (UM) Medical Center. He was a research fellow through an National Institutes of Health training grant at the UM Muscle Mechanics Laboratory and followed that with a fellowship in laryngology and care of the professional voice at Vanderbilt.

Johns is a member of the Academy of Otolaryngology and the American Medical Association. His research articles have been published in Archives of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery; International Journal of Cancer; American Journal of Roentgenology; Laryngoscope; Annals of Otolaryngology; and Human Molecular Genetics. His special interest is in vocal fold motion impairment.