PITTSBURGH - Whether you're a school teacher or the lead in the Pittsburgh opera, a healthy voice means everything. That's why Pittsburghers are relying on a unique program that takes medical care beyond the doctor's office. Channel 11's Katherine Amenta takes us inside the UPMC Voice Center.
Billy Price has been entertaining Pittsburgh with his R & B sound for more than 40 years. But before Billy ever gets to the stage, there's a behind-the-scenes production underway right at UPMC’s Voice Center.
The Voice Center at UPMC Mercy brings together two teams of surgeons and voice therapists. Their goal is to keep professionals like singers, teachers, and public speakers out of the operating room.
And the center's director, Dr. Clark Rosen, says Pittsburgh is once again leading the way.
“That combination of having those two disciplines…is unique in Western PA and is very rare throughout the world,” said Rosen.
The Center's Director of Speech Language Pathology, Dr. Jackie Gartner-Schmidt, has been helping Billy sing around a vocal cord problem. She showed Channel 11 the bump on his vocal fold that he's dealing with.
“If you do surgery on the vocal cords,” said Price. “The place where you do surgery could develop scar tissue, which can then be just as problematic.”
So, Gartner-Schmidt is showing Billy how to avoid pressing his vocal folds together and disturbing that little bump.
“He's a soul singer,” said Gartner-Schmidt. “So that's part of the sound...but he doesn't need to give it all the time.”
And Gartner-Schmidt says 67 percent of patients like Billy can avoid going under the knife.
“To be coached in the mechanics of how to do something in a less injurious way, is really valuable.” said Price. “I'm singing better…and I know that I'm not hurting myself when I sing.”
The Voice Center also focuses on prevention at a young age. They visit school choirs every month, teaching student singers how to properly and safely perform.