Dr. Claudio Milstein draws upon his roots in the Argentinian theater to change lives through revolutionary treatments for disorders in the larynx.
From directing and acting with performers onstage in Argentina to breakthrough treatments at the Cleveland Clinic, the storylines of Dr. Claudio Milstein’s journey may not seem like they go together, but like a well-written play, they both converge naturally.
“I came to the profession through theater,” Dr. Claudio Milstein, Ph.D., said. “At the same time that I was going to medical school, I was involved in professional theater for 10 years.”
Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Dr. Milstein became intrigued by how actors use their voices to move audiences and convey emotions, prompting him to focus his medical study on speech-language pathology. Dr. Milstein eventually earned his CCCs in Argentina, but upon coming to the United States to complete his studies, he learned he had to re-do his certification. Yet, this did not hold him back.
“I did it with a lot of joy because I knew that getting my CCCs opens the door for you to practice professionally,” he said.
Since earning his CCCs, Dr. Milstein’s expansive professional practice has mostly focused on one small organ: the larynx. Small but mighty, the larynx is the most complex organ in the body, producing voice, protecting airways, controlling swallowing and breathing, and more.
“Wanting to know more about the larynx, how it works, and more importantly, how to fix problems when something goes wrong has been the ‘north star’ that has kept me going all these years,” he shared.
For more than 20 years, Dr. Milstein has treated patients in the Head and Neck Institute at the renowned Cleveland Clinic. Here, Dr. Milstein studied a disorder called Functional Dysphonia, where patients lose the ability to make any sound. Though the cause is still unknown, the most common triggers are upper respiratory infections or neck traumas; many doctors had been perplexed by the condition and few treatments existed. Through his study of the larynx and this disorder, Dr. Milstein improved a technique in which manipulating the throat fixed the problem in minutes.
News about his “miracle treatment,” as one outlet called it, quickly went viral. Patients from around the world who had otherwise given up hope of ever being cured reached out. He witnessed patients tell their spouses and kids they loved them for the first time in years.
“We have helped hundreds of patients who thought that there was no treatment out there for them,” Dr. Milstein said.
He also revolutionized a therapy for another mysterious condition known as Exercise Induced Laryngeal Obstruction (EILO). Most commonly misdiagnosed as asthma or other lung disorders, patients with EILO experience trouble breathing in. Yet, after just three sessions, Dr. Milstein has been able to restore normal breathing for patients, drastically improving their quality of life. Patients who previously visited the emergency room weekly or quit their favorite sports due to the condition could now resume daily activities as normal.
“Both disorders were not well understood, and few skilled practitioners were available to treat them,” Dr. Milstein said. “I really focused on getting a treatment protocol that could help these patients.”
Dr. Milstein just finished a four-year role as Coordinator of the ASHA Special Interest Group (SIG) for Voice and Upper Airway Disorders. He attributes ASHA resources and networks like these with advancing education and raising awareness about unique communications and language disorders.
“In addition to allowing you to get a license to practice Speech Pathology, other benefits of earning your CCCs is having access to all of this information,” he said. “Not only is ASHA a great advocate for clinicians, it’s also a great source of information on conditions and therapeutics. You have access to talks, journals, webchats, articles on specialized topics, therapy techniques and more.”
The CCCs have helped him make these life-changing discoveries, improving medical care for patients and education for the next generation of clinicians.
“The certification is fundamental to somebody becoming the best professional that they can be,” he said.