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Above: Dr. Gerald Berke: “Your voice is how you express yourself to others. If it’s compromised, it impairs your personality and how you interact with the world, which can be overwhelmingly frustrating.” Opposite Page: Dr. Dinesh Chhetri: “This center is unmatched in its combination of clinical care and research to advance the knowledge of these disorders, making a huge difference in patients’ quality of life.” 20 U MAGAZINE His move to China made the problem markedly worse. “Work demands and trying to speak a new language aggravated all my vocal problems. It came to a head at a meeting where I was called on to speak to about 250 people,” he says. “My voice was horrible, cracking and missing words. I wanted to crawl away and hide.” Clearly something had to be done. Laurence, who was trained as an engineer, methodically scoured the latest medical research on SD and took a week’s vacation in New York to confer with specialists. That’s when he learned about otolaryngologist Gerald Berke, MD (RES ’80, ’84), chair of the Department of Head and Neck Surgery, and UCLA’s Voice Center for Medicine and the Arts. At UCLA, Dr. Berke performs a specialized surgery that severs the nerve pathway between the brain and vocal cord and grafts a new nerve from the neck. It essentially rewires the larynx. The alternative for Laurence would have been Botox injections that usually correct the symptoms for about six months. But a Botox injection when he was younger left Laurence with only a whisper of a voice for two months, “which was miserable. So I was wary of the injections. I wanted a permanent solution.” FOR PATIENTS WHO HAVE BAFFLING PROBLEMS with talking, breathing, singing or swallowing, the UCLA Voice Center for Medicine and the Arts can be an oasis in a desert of inconclusive tests, endless doctors’ appointments and despair. The 10-year-old center flows from the life’s work of its founder, Dr. Berke, who is an international authority on the physiology of the larynx. “Your voice is how you express yourself to others,” Dr. Berke says. “If it’s compromised, it impairs your personality and how you interact with the world, which can be overwhelmingly frustrating.” In addition to patients like Laurence, world- class singers such as Celine Dion and John Mayer have made their way to Dr. Berke for help with their ailing vocal instruments and then been public in their support of his work. “Through his medical care, I learned that the voice is an instrument ... and nobody sees that as delicately and carefully as Dr. Berke and his colleagues at UCLA,” Mayer told an audience in January 2014 at a fundraising gala to benefit the Department of Head and Neck Surgery. Many other entertainers who have trekked to the center’s understated facilities in one of UCLA Health’s outpatient offices prefer to keep quiet about any problems with their voices. The Voice Center for Medicine and the Arts is known for novel treatments for such disorders as vocal-cord paralysis, airway stenosis and the SD surgery that Laurence underwent. In-office laser therapy, digital-video endoscopes and minimally invasive approaches are used to treat myriad complex and common disorders of the larynx and trachea. Dr. Berke started the center in 2004 with Bruce Gerratt, PhD, a speech and language pathologist who consults on all Dr. Berke’s patients, and Dinesh Chhetri, MD ’97 (RES ’03, FEL ’05), an otolaryngologist who specializes in swallowing disorders. The younger generation of physicians at the center now includes otolaryngologists Jennifer Long, MD (RES ’10, FEL ’11), PhD, who joined the practice four years ago, and Abie Mendelsohn, MD ’06 (RES ’11, FEL ’11), who joined in 2012. For Laurence, the surgery itself was swift and without significant pain, but his long-term recovery process proved to be more difficult. Three weeks after his surgical procedure in Los Angeles, he