Interview by Vasant Oswal of Dr Abitbol, Ancien Chef de Clinique at the University of Paris, France.
Vasant Oswal Dr Abitbol
Dr Abitbol developed innovative diagnostic and therapeutic techniques, which include vocal dynamic exploration to look at the vocal folds during speaking or singing. His use of three-dimensional imaging of the larynx provides another perspective. He has run annual international courses for physicians and voice professionals on laser voice surgery and voice care since 1995. Vasant Oswal interviewed him on the eve of his final course, although the course itself will continue with his son Patrick Abitbol at the helm.
How did you develop interest in laryngology and in particular in voice?
I always loved music and singing. The holistic approach of Voice Foundation in Philadelphia, where voice surgery, medicine and art is imperceptibly entwined, appealed to me.
How did you come to be known as ‘voice doctor’?
My greater emphasis on voice as patient’s main complaint!
What made you start a course particularly on voice and phoniatrics?
Vasant Oswal’s Cleveland International Laser Course in Middlebrough, England, was established in 1983. I was one of its faculty members and it was a fabulous experience. He encouraged me and helped me to start a dedicated course on ‘Voice Surgery and Voice care’ in Paris. The first course ran in 1995. There was tremendous enthusiasm from the international experts: I named them ‘The Voice Family’!
Tell us what you learnt from the first course to improve subsequent courses.
Not just how to treat the patient but also defining the limits of surgical and medical methods.
What kind of conditions do you cover in your courses?
It covers core knowledge, everyday problems and cutting-edge technology, a broad spectrum which appeals to all levels of attendees.
Do you have any live surgery demonstrations?
Yes, live demonstrations form an important feature of the course!
Tell us the difficulties of live surgery demonstrations and outpatient examination.
Can’t think of any! Of course a good audio-visual support is mandatory.
Tell us your funny moments.
Some faculty members did not always agree with the use of the laser and wanted to use cold instruments. I would politely suggest: “Yes, but nevertheless, let us just try it!”
During course dinners, the most laughs came with magicians, and a ventriloquist acting as surgeon!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a similar course in their own country?
Do it! It is a great experience for a two-way flow of knowledge. Not only do you have the satisfaction of imparting your experience, but equally, your performance is also under the spotlight!
Courses run by individuals usually come to an end on retirement. What is going to happen to your course?
My son Patrick’s remarks - “Dad, do I have to wait for my retirement before I get to run the course?” - are reassuring for the future of the course. He takes over from me from the next course!