June 12, 1998

Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center forms new board

Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center forms new board

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Former patient Billy Joe Miles shared his story at the recent meeting of the advisory board of the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center for Otolaryngology and Communication Disorders. (Photo by Donna Jones Bailey)

The Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center for Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences took an important organizational step recently with the inaugural gathering of its advisory board.

The new 29-member volunteer board was created as a result of last summer's merger of the Bill Wilkerson Center for Hearing and Speech and Vanderbilt to assist in the center's development as a national model for otolaryngology and communication sciences.

"This gathering is truly a significant milestone in the development of the new center," said Dr. Robert H. Ossoff, Guy M. Maness Professor and chair of Otolaryngology and director of the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center. "I am personally grateful to everyone for serving on the advisory board and for being here today."

The new board's initial meeting kicked off with introductions. Many of the board's members were formerly members of the board of the Bill Wilkerson Center, and others are from both VUMC and the Nashville community and include members of the entertainment industry, such as country music singer Kathy Mattea.

Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs, outlined how the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center will enhance VUMC in the coming years.

"This is an historic occasion, to take two outstanding entities like the Bill Wilkerson Center and the Department of Otolaryngology and put them together to create something that I think will set the national standard and maybe the international standard," said Jacobson.

One impending change will be the construction of a free-standing building to house the combined programs under one roof. Current plans are for the new facility to be located next to the existing Medical Center East building.

"We know that this new building will allow us to expand our service base to provide better care for our patients. We have a rough idea of what the new building will look like that will house the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center for Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences and are very excited to get started," said Jacobson.

Also speaking at the advisory board meeting were two board members who themselves have been patients at either the Bill Wilkerson Center or the Vanderbilt Voice Center.

Deborah Pyle's four-year-old daughter, Jesse, was diagnosed with sensory neural hearing loss in 1995.

"From the very beginning the people at Vanderbilt have put us at ease and were very caring and supportive. They then referred us to the Bill Wilkerson Center for further treatment. It has always seemed like a natural union to me because of their relationship and how well they always worked together," Pyle said.

When Pyle had her second child, Charlie, he too was examined at the Bill Wilkerson Center and was also diagnosed with hearing loss.

"The two of them together are very special and they are doing very well thanks mainly to the folks at VUMC and the Bill Wilkerson Center," said Pyle.

Billy Joe Miles, a former member of the VUMC advisory board currently serving on the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson board, also gave a testimonial about his treatment. Miles lost his voice several years ago and was treated for allergies while his voice continued to deteriorate. After several months, he was referred to the Vanderbilt Voice Center for treatment.

"The Voice Center and the people there really hold a special feeling for me. After all the medications, Dr. Ossoff discovered a tumor under my brain which was causing my voice loss. Now, between Ossoff and Dr. James L. Netterville (associate professor of Otolaryngology) I have my health and a voice ‹ which I didn¹t have before," said Miles.