Published on May 16, 2016

Pleased to introduce Dr. Joel Blumin, laryngeal surgeon and medical director of the professional voice program at MCW. Dr. Blumin has a simple philosophy of patient care that was passed to him from his mentors: treat every patient as if they were your mother or father. Please credit The Voice Forum when you share our content. #fellowshipofthelarynx


TVF: Where do you currently practice? Before that?

JB: Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI 53226

I was born and raised in the Los Angeles area.


TVF: Where did you complete your medical training? Laryngology?

JB: Medical school at University of Iowa

Residency in otolaryngology/head & neck surgery at UCLA Fellowship in laryngology, bronchoesophagology, and voice disorders at UCLA — I was the first fellow in laryngology at UCLA


TVF: How/why did you come to choose laryngology?

JB: One of my first exposures to laryngology as a discipline was in the voice laboratory at the University of Iowa with Julie Barkmeier-Kraemer (Hi Julie!) as a medical student. I found the complexity of voice production linked to the humanity of the voice exciting. I continued my interest during residency and somewhere near my fourth year solidified into pursuing laryngology as a career. I enjoy the wide range of patients that we treat, the wide range of treatments (office, operating room, minimally invasive, maximally invasive) we can offer, and the ability to really help patients with some of the most basic functions of life and living — those of voice, swallowing, and breathing — all intertwined with their social importance.


TVF: What comes to your mind as one of the most pressing issues in contemporary voice disorders?

JB: Our treatments for vocal fold scar are quite limited.

Laryngeal papillomatosis is a very frustrating problem that we are very poor at treating — our management just keeps things at bay rather then actually cures the disease. Hopefully, immunization for HPV can change the landscape for the better, but I suspect this effect won’t be seen for a few generations (25-50 years)


TVF: What is/are your research interest(s)? Why?

JB: Neurolaryngology - specifically laryngeal dystonia/spasmodic dysphonia. This is a challenging problem both for patients and practitioners. Unfortunately, this is a disease/disorder that we help patients with symptoms rather than cure the disease. Problem is, we don’t know what the disease really is.


TVF: Who is your favorite singer?

JB: I lean towards rock and pop and could potentially generate a list, but don’t do favorites. I don’t even have a favorite color.


TVF: What is your vocal pet peeve?

JB: Throat clearing, fry, and lack of insight into a behavioral source for many common vocal issues.


TVF: Which vocal myth would you like to dispel?

JB: Everything voice is reflux. Reflux does effect some people’s larynges some of the time. Although laryngopharyngeal reflux is a real medical issue, treating reflux is by no means a panacea for voice problems and shouldn’t be used as first line treatment for a voice problem before an evaluation. As a laryngologist, I spend more time taking people off acid suppressive medicines than starting them on them.


Post nasal drip is a thing that causes x or y laryngeal problems. Normal people do not routinely aspirate their nasal secretions.


TVF: Your most memorable voice case?

JB: Again, I have trouble with favorites!

I’ve taken care of many patients with the most extreme type of spasmodic dysphonia who have failed common treatments and are essentially non-verbal and have restored their ability to speak and enjoy a normal life.


TVF: As a laryngologist/surgeon, what keeps you on your toes?

JB: Airway stuff. Breathing is paramount to life.

I would venture to assume that most of my laryngology colleagues have literally saved someone’s life — many many times over. It’s part of what we do but don’t talk about it too much to the lay public.


TVF: What advice would you like to give to professional voice users?

JB: Take care of your voice. Don’t smoke. I’m still surprised that there are those in the vocal arts who habitually smoke.


TVF: What sparks “joy” for you as a person?

JB: Tube distortion though a cranked amp.