Balance Awareness Week: ‘Dizziness is not normal’



Some loss of balance as you age is to be expected, but balance issues don’t have to be a fact of life, say the vestibular therapists at the U-M Vestibular Testing Center, part of the Vertigo & Balance Disorders program in the Department of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery.

Wendy Carender

Wendy Carender, PT, NCS, of the U-M Vertigo & Balance Disorders program.

Sept. 12 through 18 is Balance Awareness Week, and vestibular certified physical therapists Wendy Carender, PT, NCS, and Melissa Grzesiak, PT, DPT recommend people see their doctor if balance or vertigo is getting in the way of their regular life. Many physicians will then refer patients to the physical therapists and audiologists at the Vestibular Testing Center for evaluation and treatment.

“I personally used to go in and see Wendy very often, so much that I suggested they set up an office for me there. I was a regular pest,” said Harold Johnson, 89, who dealt with a variety of balance and vertigo issues as he aged, in addition to a history of Meniere’s disease and a cochlear implant.

Carender educated Johnson in specific exercises to reduce his dizziness and improve his balance and sent him home with a customized home exercise program.  He finds his balance has improved so much that he rarely requires a visit anymore.

“The majority of our patients with dizziness and balance disorders benefit from an individualized home exercise program,” Carender said. “We’re teaching them to move through the dizziness in order to desensitize and decrease symptoms while promoting return to functional activity.”

Continue reading

From patient to advocate

February 29 is Rare Disease Day

cropped IMG_1244His wife Nancy couldn’t take the snoring anymore, so after a couple of months Dan Nagridge went to ask his doctor if he had sleep apnea.

He ended up at the University of Michigan Health System, with a surprise diagnosis: cancer at the base of his skull. It was chordoma, a slow-growing cancer that’s extremely rare, pushing on the back of Dan’s throat that made him start snoring.

“The cancer starts from tissue that was left when he was forming as an embryo in his mother’s womb,” says Erin McKean, M.D., MBA, a U-M otolaryngologist, or ear, nose and throat doctor, and Dan’s surgeon. “We don’t know why people develop this cancer, so we’re very invested in advancing the research.” Continue reading

Hoping for a domino effect

A physician has a challenging first day on the job in Ghana


Greg Basura, M.D., Ph.D., remembers the first time he examined patients in an ear, nose and throat clinic in the West African nation of Ghana.

The examination room was crowded with 10 to 15 nurses, doctors, residents and other people. He was trying to figure out the set-up and the workflow. What instruments were available? How did the patient’s chair work? What did the medical records say?

Continue reading

A collaboration, not a mission trip

U-M physicians train their Ghanaian ear, nose and throat colleagues

Ghana Blog - First Story2

U-M otolaryngologist Mark Prince (right) confers with Dr. Alex Oti of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi, Ghana. Prince and several colleagues recently spent a week in Kumasi collaborating with Ghanian doctors.


Doctors do “mission trips” all the time. They take a week or so off from work and travel to a developing country. They treat several patients and then they fly home.

No doubt, such trips can have a huge impact on a patient’s life. But Mark Prince, M.D., wanted to do much more than that when he and his colleagues began thinking about working in the West African nation of Ghana. They didn’t want to just provide sporadic care.

“We wanted to go to a place where care was already being delivered at a certain level and assist them with getting to the next level,” said Prince, of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the U-M Health System.

The U-M physicians’ goal was to work with their Ghanaian colleagues to create a training program — an educational collaboration. In the past two years, they’ve already made much progress with such a project at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, or KATH, in Kumasi — the second-biggest city in Ghana.

Continue reading

Singer relies on positive attitude, U-M team after palate cancer diagnosis


After being diagnosed with cancers of the palate and thyroid one after another, professional singer Jerry Garcia knew he was going to have to risk his career in order to save his health and family life.

With surgery recommended for both tumors, Garcia knew at every turn that he might have to take his musical ministry in another direction if surgical complications made him no longer able to sing in the caliber he’d built a career on. Instead, Jerry credits the quality of his recent album – he calls it the best he’s ever sung – to the surgeries and experts he saw at the U-M Health System.

“I came out of this unscathed with no vocal cord damage whatsoever,” Garcia said. “It’s the power of a strong positive attitude.”

Continue reading

Your voice is trying to tell you something — if you’d only listen!

U-M vocal health doctor gives tips for World Voice Day & beyond

Your voice is trying to tell you something

What is your voice telling you?

Most of us don’t give our voices a second thought, even though we use them every day to talk, sing, shout, laugh, hum or scream.

But Norman Hogikyan, M.D., spends every day thinking about voices: those of his patients.

As director of the U-M Vocal Health Center, he treats everyone from teachers to opera singers for ailments that affect their speaking and singing ability. Too many people abuse their voices, he says, or fail to recognize changes in their voice that actually signal some greater danger.

This week, in honor of World Voice Day, he offers top tips and other information to help us all get educated about vocal health.

Continue reading