The Kennedy Center

Dr. Steven Zeitels

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    American Voices Symposium: Vocal Health and Illness: Insights into the Past, Present, and Future


Steven Marc Zeitels, M.D. is the Eugene B. Casey Professor of Laryngeal Surgery at Harvard Medical School and the director of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation (AKA: MGH Voice Center), which is the most comprehensive facility of its kind in the world. He is an internationally recognized surgeon specializing in throat, voice, and larynx problems. In 2004, the first endowed chair in laryngeal surgery at Harvard Medical School was created for him while he re-established a Harvard laryngeal surgery service at the MGH, which had not been present since the 1920s. Zeitels's contributions to voice and laryngeal surgery are highly recognized in the USA and throughout the world. He has received more than 75 awards and honored lectureships for his achievements including the Casselberry and Newcomb Awards from the American Laryngological Association and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Boston University (BU) School of Medicine in 2007.

Zeitels is widely regarded as a prolific surgical innovator having designed numerous new voice restoration procedures (phonosurgery) and instruments, and holds a number of patents for these innovations. He is widely acknowledged for pioneering novel laser applications to treat dysplasia and cancer as well as laryngeal papillomatosis, polyps, and nodules; and is also well known for creating office-based laryngeal laser surgery. Most notable, was his introduction of angiolytic laser treatment of vocal cord cancer, which was a groundbreaking achievement evolving from Judah Folkman's concepts of tumor angiogenesis and Rox Anderson's theory of selective photothermolysis. Zeitels has also designed unique procedures to restore the voice of those who have had vocal paresis and paralysis. His techniques were featured in a National Geographic channel documentary, "The Incredible Human Machine," which highlighted Zeitels's microsurgery on Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. In addition, his novel surgical treatment of Roger Daltrey (The Who) just prior to his halftime performance in the 2010 Super Bowl was discussed extensively on CBS News. In 2012, Zeitels received broad international coverage of his unique microsurgery that restored Adele's voice. The singer acknowledged his assistance in the acceptance speech for the first of her six Grammy Awards.

In 2013, a number of these achievements were highlighted in a long-form biographical profile in the New Yorker Magazine featuring Zeitels's career and innovations. His work has also been featured in the Harvard Medical Alumni Journal, the Harvard Magazine, and the Boston University Alumni Journal and discussed extensively in print media, radio, and television both nationally and internationally (i.e., Good Morning America, Today Show, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, London Sunday Times, Rolling Stone, USA Today, Vogue, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Bloomberg News, NPR, BBC, National Geographic, Nightline, Boston-New York-Los Angeles television news on CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX). He has done career-saving surgery on hundreds of American and international performing vocalists. Media venues have discussed the surgical and medical care of a number of Zeitels's celebrity patients, including Adele, Julie Andrews, Steven Tyler and Tom Hamilton (Aerosmith), Cher, Roger Daltrey (The Who), Lionel Richie, Keith Urban, Paul Stanley (Kiss), James & Livingston Taylor, Denyce Graves, Frederica von Stade, Connie Fisher, Joe Buck, Doc Rivers (Boston Celtics), and Dick Vitale. In 2012, Zeitels was listed 13 in Rolling Stone's "25 Best Things in Rock Right Now" and 14 in Fast Company's "100 most Creative People." Zeitels's patients have been strong supporters of research and education and formed the nonprofit Voice Health Institute (VHI) to help others with laryngeal and voice disorders. In 2013, Google founder Larry Page provided substantial support to the Zeitels and the VHI to advance their pioneering achievements in airway and voice restoration.

Zeitels conceived and directs the Voice Restoration Research Program, which is a collaborative effort of investigators at Harvard and MGH, as well as Robert Langer at MIT. They have spent more than a decade developing a biomaterial that would restore the largest majority of human voice loss and the research group received the 2010 Broyles Maloney Award of the American Broncho-Esophagological Association for their effort. They hope to initiate human trials to test the new vocal biogel in 2014.

Zeitels's single-author Atlas of Phonomicrosurgery is considered by many surgeons to be the leading textbook in microsurgery of the larynx. Zeitels has authored more than 200 scientific articles, book chapters, and videos in these areas as well as presented more than 300 papers and lectures. He serves or has served on the editorial board of five national and international journals. Zeitels has also been the honored guest of many international organizations, including the British Voice Association, Japan Laryngological Association, European Medical Laser Association, Pan-European Voice Conference, Collegium Medicorum Theatri, Australian Voice Association, Spanish Head and Neck Society, Brazilian Society of Laryngology and Voice, New Zealand Society of Otolaryngology, Chilean Head & Neck Society, Mexican Society of Otolaryngology, and the British Academic Conference in Otolaryngology.

He has also been the visiting professor at many departments, universities, and hospitals, including Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, University of California (San Diego & Irvine), University of Pittsburgh, University of Texas (Dallas), University of Oregon, University of Cincinnati, University of Utah, Vanderbilt University, University of Alabama, University of Connecticut, University of West Virginia, University of Minnesota, University of Navarra-Pamplona (Spain), Tel Aviv University (Israel), Auckland University (New Zealand), Kumamoto University (Japan), McGill & Dalhousie Universities (Canada), and The Juilliard School.

Zeitels was a member of the first class of Boston University Trustee Scholars, attended the BU 6-year medical program, and graduated from the BU School of Medicine in 1982. He completed the BU-Tufts combined Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Program in 1987 as well as a Head and Neck Surgical Oncology Fellowship at BU and the Boston Veterans Affairs Medical Center in 1988.
Dr. Steven Zeitels