Steven Zeitels is as close to a rock star as a laryngologist gets: He's a prolific researcher who has become the go-to voice doctor for 400-plus entertainers, including Adele, James Taylor, and Steven Tyler. Zeitels recalls that when he was a doctoral resident, one of his teachers said, " ‘You're not one of the brightest residents.' ” Thirty seconds passed, then the teacher continued, " ‘But you may be the most creative one we've ever had.' ” Zeitels accepts the compliment--his practice is fueled by just that.
To remove a benign polyp from singer Adele's vocal cord, Zeitels channeled ambidextrous skills he learned from sewing leather as a teenager. "Leatherwork is similar to surgery,” he says, "except there's no blood.”
To reconstruct a trachea and allow a patient to speak, Zeitels teamed up with a thoracic surgeon to use a cryo-preserved aorta as a voice box.
Zeitels says the hoarseness of old age can be eased; it's just a matter of keeping vocal cords supple. He's working with researchers to develop a "biogel” for that purpose now.