Froedtert’s doctor to the stars

Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin‘s Dr. Joel Blumin, laryngologist and director of the professional voice program, has seen his fair share of celebrities during his career, but has yet to become star struck.

Blumin, is one of a group of professionals in the country that specialize in problems dealing with the voice and throat, and voice disorders. Because of his expertise, he stands on call as the ‘doctor to the stars’ when big time musicians come to Milwaukee to perform.

“Occasionally when an act is in town, I get called to see a personality at the venue or at the hotel when someone is ill,” Blumin said. “When they are concerned about their voice they call me to see my thoughts on the matter.”

The connection to Blumin was made because Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin have arrangements with a number of different venues throughout town to provide emergency services, he said.

“Many times I need to decide if it is safe for the performer to continue with the concert,” he said. “A lot of people at the professional level can alter what they do if they are a little ill but at certain levels they can’t. I have to tell them either you are going to have trouble but you can go on, or it is an unsafe situation and the show should be cancelled.”

According to Blumin, with certain types of laryngitis the blood vessels can be enflamed, and trauma from the way most professional singers sing can cause bleeding and or scarring within the vocal cords.

“It is an interesting phenomenon. The performers actually need a doctor’s note to cancel a show because of all the financial issues surrounding it," he said. "While it doesn’t happen that often it is definitely a big deal."

Blumin prefers to see patients, including the celebrities, in his office at the hospital, but occasionally will go to a venue or hotel to see celebrities.

“The reality is that I go into the venue a couple times a year," he said. "I do see a lot of them in the office, and actually prefer it that way because I have equipment that can properly evaluate the voice. I do my job best in my clinic."

Blumin is the only full-time laryngologist in southeastern Wisconsin. He moved here from Los Angeles where he did similar work with celebrities.

“I am originally from Las Angeles, so celebrities there walk around like everyday people," he said. "I used to do the same kind of work in L.A., but when the job opened up here at Froedtert I decided to take it.”

The environment surrounding Froedtert’s laryngology department, and the fact that his in-laws live in the Chicago area helped him make the decision to move to Milwaukee. 

One of the biggest perks, according to Blumin, is just being able to see patients.

“Probably one of the fun things is to see some of these people on a personal level and know that they are normal people with normal problems, it’s a privilege to work with these folks,” he said.

From his work for celebrities, Blumin has received a few backstage passes and ticket opportunities.

“Some of my patients are professional vocalists, but the majority of my patients are people that do a lot of voice work all day long: attorneys, clergy, and teachers have voice problems that could significantly impact their lives,” Blumin said. “That’s why we have a busy practice, and that’s why I’ll be bringing on a partner in July.”

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