With the holiday season underway, the quarterly luncheon of the Baylor Scott and White Dallas Foundation board on Tuesday, December 10, had a different type of program prepared for its guests. Among those present and about to enjoy the difference at the Charles Sammons Cancer Center were: Nancy Dedman, Karla McKinley, Ann Corrigan, Jill Smith, Keenan Delaney, Julie Turner, Clare Graca, 2019 Celebrating Women Chair Laura Downing, Margo Goodwin, Alan Friedman, Michal Powell, Dr. Bob Gunby, Dr. David Winter, Kalita Blessing, Peggy and Dr. Leonard Riggs, Mike Massad, John Yeaman, Susan Sayles, Jacqueline Fojtasek, Kristi Hoyl and Baylor Scott and White Health CEO Jim Hinton.
The first clues that something unusual was afoot were the keyboard and guitar sitting in the corner of the room.
Because Board Chair Norm Bagwell was unable to preside over the gathering, Foundation Development VP Susan McSherry kicked things off, asking Pierce Allman to give the invocation. There was a particular reason for selecting Pierce, but more about that later.
Before lunch was served, Susan explained that Baylor Scott and White Voice Center patient Haley March would be singing for the guests’ enjoyment during the meal, and that Baylor Scott and White orthopedic surgeon Dr. John Heinrich would accompany her on the guitar. Haley and John would be followed by Voice Center patient Jackie Payne, who would be at the keyboard and perform a song that she had written herself.
It was about this time that folks began getting the idea that today’s program would be focusing on The Voice Center at Baylor Scott and White. The quarterly meeting’s panel discussion, which focused indeed on The Center, featured Foundation President Robin Robinson, Dr. Lindsey Arviso, a Center otolaryngolist; and two speech-language pathologists at the specialty clinic: Kimberly Coker and Stephanie Fort.
During their talk, Lindsey said the hospital’s Voice Center was established in 2018 to meet the community’s needs for its unique services. She sees patients together with a speech pathologist, she said, providing a state-of-the-art, “multi-disciplinary approach” to the treatment of voice and breathing disorders.
One example of their cutting-edge approach involved Jackie, a professional singer/songwriter who came to The Center to have a lesion on her vocal chords evaluated. When the lesion turned out to be cancerous, Lindsey performed the surgeries to remove it, and Jackie worked with speech pathologists at The Center to heal.
Then, it was time for a live performance by Voice Center patient Alexis Garry, an accomplished singer, along with Stephanie, who herself is a trained singer as well as a speech-language pathologist. The song they selected to sing together: “O Holy Night.”
Resuming the discussion once the applause died down, Lindsey told Robin that “awareness” and “education” are key challenges in her field. That’s because many people don’t realize that voice or breathing problems can be treated, and may even be indicative of “something more concerning,” such as ALS, for example.
With that, the panel cued up another live performance, this one by Voice Center patient Dalton Rapattoni, who was a second runner-up on TV’s “American Idol” program. “I picked this song before I knew this was going to be such a classy affair,” Dalton said, drawing a round of hearty laughter. “But hopefully we can all have a laugh together.” Then he proceeded to sing a Yule “punk song” by The Kinks rock group called “Father Christmas.”
Wrapping up the program, Hinton joked a little about the day’s program. “I came here today fully intending to sing a medley of Beach Boys songs,” Jim said, smiling. “Been practicing all day. But, I did not want to be judged by our colleagues at The Voice Center.”
Finally, what was that about Pierce? It turns out that he was excellent choice to give the luncheon invocation. A while back, Pierce, who had been a broadcaster before becoming a residential real estate magnate, was a patient at The Voice Center himself.